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February 12: Cigarette Smoking at UND

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On this evening in 1925, the Men's Conference at the University of North Dakota held a long stormy session. The topic was cigarette smoking. Despite UND's official ban on smoking, there had been a laissez-faire attitude toward enforcement.

Captain Lawrence Quinn, an infantry officer on the faculty of the Reserve Officer Training Corps at UND, chaired UND's student affairs committee. Like any good infantry officer, Captain Quinn regarded any unenforced rule to be unacceptable. So, two months earlier, he had issued an ultimatum – either permit smoking or enforce the ban.

Captain Quinn's ultimatum plunged UND into turmoil. According to the Dakota Student, cigarette smoking was “cussed and discussed” over the past two months “in every University organization, the classrooms, the corridors, and wherever the students congregated.”

Some students wanted to permit smoking, arguing that the rule was unenforceable. On the other hand, the Dakota Student newspaper worried that smoking would be “certain to grow by leaps and bounds, should the rule be abolished.”

According to the Dakota Student, “... extremists, liberals, and [conservatives] waged verbal warfare as to what action should be taken on the issue of cigarette smoking on the campus.”

Some students proposed a compromise, setting aside some areas for smoking. Yet, according to the Dakota Student, state law already banned smoking “in any of the University buildings.”

The Men's Conference eventually complied with Captain Quinn's demand by choosing to enforce the ban. Quinn expressed satisfaction, saying: “I am indeed gratified in the manner in which the conference handled the situation. They laid aside their personal desires and prejudices and have looked to the welfare of our University.”


Although Captain Quinn may have gotten his way this evening in 1925, a spirit of student rebellion embraced cigarette smoking as a way to thumb one's nose against campus authority. The 1926 Dacotah yearbook shows university mascot Hi Hyah, a precursor to the more notorious “Sammy Sioux” mascot, dressed in a classic college outfit of sports jacket, tie, and baggy pants, holding a lit cigarette.

Meanwhile, the Ceramics Department of the UND School of Mines would become renowned for making decorative, and highly collectible, ashtrays.

Dakota Datebook by Andrew Alexis Varvel


  • “'NO SMOKES' CONFERENCE LEGISLATES: Stormy Two Months Discussion Ended by Decision of Governing Body: Captain Quinn Pleased With Result Of Voting; Conference to Enforce Ruling”, Dakota Student, 13 February 1925, page 1, column 1.
  • “FACTS ABOUT SMOKING –“ (editorial), Dakota Student, 6 February 1925, page 2, column 2.
  • “THE CADETS: THE RESERVE OFFICER TRAINING CORPS”, in THE 1926 DACOTAH (Grand Forks, University of North Dakota Class of 1926, 1926), page 237.
  • “CAPT. QUINN'S POSITION –“ (editorial), Dakota Student, 7 February 1925, page 2, columns 1-2.
  • “FACTS ABOUT SMOKING –“ (editorial), Dakota Student, 6 February 1925, page 2, column 2.
  • “INCREASING SMOKING” (editorial), Dakota Student, 7 February 1925, page 2, column 1.
  • “INEVITABLE RESULTS –” (editorial), Dakota Student, 7 February 1925, page 2, column 1.
  • “RULES –“ (editorial), Dakota Student, 7 February 1925, page 2, columns 2-3.
  • “SMOKING IS DISCUSSED BY STUDENT GROUP: Vacancies In Student Court And Board Of Control To Be Filled: Petitions Will Be Accepted By Governing Body Until Thursday Noon”, Dakota Student, 10 February 1925, page 1, column 1.
  • L. E. Blaisdell, “ON THIS QUESTION OF SMOKING” (letter to the editor), Dakota Student, 10 February 1925, page 2, columns 2-4.
  • The 1926 Dacotah (Grand Forks: The Class of 1926 of the University of North Dakota, 1926), page 208.
  • The 1942 Dacotah (Grand Forks: The University of North Dakota at Grand Forks, 1942); dedication page, pages 5, 6, 9, 15, Escape from classes (1-2), 33, 53, 59, Escape from organizations (1-2), 65, 89, 105, 111, 121, 135, Escape from activities (1-2), 153, 173, 177, 187, 201, 215.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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