Ending the Tobacco Problem - Resources for Local Action
Institute of Medicine

Call To Action


Smoke-Free College Campuses

Smoking bans on college campuses, which may range from complete campus-wide bans to prohibitions on smoking in dormitories and/or other public buildings, increasingly are becoming common across the United States. More than 500 colleges and universities around the country currently ban smoking in some fashion.

A 2001 study by Henry Wechsler and colleagues found that cigarette smoking prevalence and cigar use were significantly lower among residents of smoke-free housing on campus compared to residents in unrestricted dorms [1]. Students who lived in smoke-free dormitories also were less likely to begin smoking than students living in dormitories that permitted smoking. Tyrone Borders and colleagues found that schools with designated smoking areas had a higher prevalence of smoking and that students on campuses with smoking prevention education programs were less likely to smoke than students at schools with no program [2]. A 2008 study revealed that 19 percent of college students smoke and an additional five percent use other tobacco products [3].  

In 2005, the American College Health Association (ACHA) urged all college and university campuses across the nation to implement no-smoking policies on their campuses in an effort to reduce the number of smokers between the ages of 18 to 24 years old. The ACHA encouraged colleges to ban tobacco use in and around, within 20 feet, of all public buildings on campus, and to prohibit the advertisement and sales of tobacco products on campus [4]. According to the American Lung Association, 122 American colleges or universities are entirely smoke-free as of 2009 [5].  

In 2003, Abigail Halperin and colleagues surveyed 50 public colleges and universities around the country and found that despite smoking restrictions of some kind on all of the campuses, many still fell below the recommended guidelines from the ACHA, the American Cancer Society, and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse [6]. 

One College’s Success at Achieving a Smoke-Free Campus 

In 2002, the Colorado State Tobacco Education and Prevention Partnership awarded Colorado Collegiate Tobacco Prevention Initiative (CCTPI) grants to 16 Colorado universities, including Colorado Mountain College (CMC). Colorado Mountain College established a task force to gather suggestions from students on how the grant money should be spent to promote tobacco cessation. This task force chose to work with the BACCHUS Network, a national nonprofit organization that works with college students to promote healthy and safe lifestyle decisions including decisions on tobacco use [7]. 

Colorado Mountain College’s tobacco-free policy mirrors the guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in which tobacco products (including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, smokeless tobacco, or other tobacco products) are prohibited at all times in buildings or outside grounds including parking areas and private vehicles while on campus [8].

The move to transform the CMC Summit Campus to be tobacco-free began in the fall of 2008 when the task force—which included a smoker, a community member, faculty, and staff—considered a tobacco-free policy. Members from the CMC community visited tobacco-free campuses to discuss successful strategies. With the support of the state and a number of coalitions including Tobacco Free College, the BACCHUS [9] Network, and Summit Prevention Alliance, the task force began working toward creating a tobacco-free campus. After five months of study and outreach efforts by the task force, a campus-wide vote in February 2009 resulted in a tobacco-free campus policy[10]. Faculty and staff voted in favor of the policy by 84 percent. The new policy, which goes into effect for the Fall 2009 semester, affects all students, employees, and visitors to the campus. Signage announcing that CMC is a smoke-free campus will be posted around the school. Colorado Mountain College’s Summit Campus represents the first public college or university in the state of Colorado to become entirely tobacco-free. 

Colleges and universities can work toward smoke-free campuses by following a process similar to the one undertaken at CMC. However, all parties do not always agree about tobacco policies. Success is more likely when all of the relevant parties are represented.

[1] Wechsler, H., Kelley, K., Seibring, M., Kuo, M., & Rigotti, N.A. (2001).  College smoking policies and smoking cessation programs: Results of a survey of college health center directors. Journal of American College Health 49 (5): 205-213

[2] Borders, T., K Tom Xu, Bacchi, D., Cohen L., & SoRelle-Miner, D.  (2005). College campus smoking policies and programs and students' smoking behaviors.  BioMed Center Public Health, 5(74).

[3] Roming, S. (2009). Summit campus votes to become tobacco-free zone.

[4] ACHA (American College Health Association). 2005. Position Statement on Tobacco on College and University Campuses. Web Page. Available at: http://www.acha.org/info_resources/tobacco_statement.pdf; accessed June 12, 2007.

[5] Allen, R. (2009 Feb 22). CMC Summit campus to go tobacco-free this fall Summit County, CO Summit Daily News

[6] Halperin, A.C., Rigotti, N.A., Rothstein, W.G., & Rajapaksa, S. (2003) US public universities' compliance with recommended tobacco-control policies. Journal of American College Health, 51(5).

[7] Tobacco Free U 2009. About CCTPI Web Page.

[8] CDC 2009 Tobacco Free Campus: Policy Web Page. Available at:   http://www.cdc.gov/tobaccofree/policy.htm accessed May 8, 2009

[9] BACCHUS Network : http://www.bacchusgamma.org/

[10] Roming, S. (2009). Summit campus votes to become tobacco-free zone.