KNOXVILLE - The University of Tennessee's Neyland Stadium is now smoke free.
In compliance with a new state law passed this year that prohibits smoking in all enclosed public places, smoking will no longer be allowed inside the gates of the stadium.
Smoking had been allowed in certain areas of Neyland Stadium in past years.
The "Non-Smoker Protection Act" signed into law this June applies to sports arenas, including indoor and outdoor areas.
"UT has gradually restricted smoking in the stadium over the last 10 years, and now the law requires the university to make the stadium completely smoke free," said Jeff Maples, senior associate vice chancellor for finance and administration.
"While I know non-smokers will see this as good news, I also know that this has a negative impact on our fans who smoke," said UT Director of Athletics Mike Hamilton. “Over the past month we have spent a lot of time analyzing our venue and its constraints to make sure we are abiding by the new law to the best of our ability.”
The new policy will start with the Volunteers' first home game on Sept. 8 against Southern Mississippi.
Tennessee will become the fifth SEC school to ban smoking. Arkansas, Florida, LSU and South Carolina have already banned smoking in their stadiums.
Smoking policy has evolved
The university changed its smoking policy in the stadium last year to reflect another state law that banned smoking in state buildings and went into effect before the 2006 season.
Last year the university limited smoking to ramp areas and the Gate 21 plaza. At that time, smoking was already banned in the seating areas.
"Although the 2006 law did not specify stadiums as the new law does, we believed it was a good way to phase in changes after hearing support from many fans about having more smoke-free areas. We did not receive many complaints about the restrictions last year," Maples said.
Neyland Stadium is the third largest college football stadium in the country with seating capacity of 102,038.