Concern Raised Over Student Prepaid Cards and Tobacco

by Ben Jackson 0

A study by the CU Cancer center has found that collegestudents are buying tobacco with the money loaded onto prepaid campus cards,the University Herald reports.The study’s author believe that the campus should restrict the cards from beingused for tobacco.

In all, 94 of the 100 surveyeduniversities included an ID-linked debit card program, with a total enrollmentof 1,452,048 students. Previous research shows that of university students whosmoke, 42 percent had used campus debit cards to purchase cigarettes.

While no college wants to encourage smoking, there arelimits to the ways in which they can control the spending of the students. Filteringtechnology for payments cards exists, but it is extremely difficult to filterdown to the SKU level to prevent just one type of product from being sold.

It is much easier to restrict spending to select merchantsand then ask those merchants not to sell tobacco, but tobacco is a legalproduct. This means to truly prevent funds on the cards from being used fortobacco, then cash access would also need to be eliminated. It is worth noting that some schools dorestrict their campus cards in this way. For those that don’t, the question iswhether or not the students can use the card in all of the places they need tomake purchases. Additionally, only a minority of students smoke. The AmericanCancer Society reportsthat only 17.3% of adults aged 18-24 reported smoking cigarettes in 2012. Thisraises the question of whether the other 82.7% of students should find theircash access and ability to shop at stores that might sell tobacco cut off inorder to restrict the behavior of a minority of students.

However, colleges and universities exist to educate people,which should help them make better choices. As the stoic philosopher MarcusAurelius wrote: “Men exist for the sake of one another. Teach them or bear withthem.” In this case, teaching studentshealthy habits will do far more to stopping the spread of smoking than tryingto lock down their prepaid cards.


Overview by Ben Jackson, Director, Prepaid Advisory Service for Mercator Advisory Group

Read full story in the University Herald