Tobacco-Free Policies on the Rise Across US Colleges and Universities

17 Sep Tobacco-Free Policies on the Rise Across US Colleges and Universities

More than twice as many U.S. college and university campuses were smoke free or tobacco free in 2017 as in 2012, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation (ANRF), published today in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

As of November 2017, at least 2,082 U.S. college and university campuses were smoke free (completely prohibited smoking) or tobacco free (completely prohibited both smokeless tobacco use and combustible tobacco product smoking) in all indoor and outdoor areas, up from 774 campuses in 2012.

In 2017, among the 2,082 campuses with smoke-free policies, 84 percent were tobacco-free. By comparison, of the 774 smoke-free college and university campuses in 2012, 73 percent were tobacco-free, using data from ANRF’s College Campus Tobacco Policy Database.

“Colleges and universities are ideal places to promote healthy behaviors that can continue for a lifetime, including being tobacco free,” said Corinne Graffunder, Dr.P.H, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. “Tobacco-free campus policies could help reduce tobacco use and provide people with a healthier environment to live, work, and learn.”

Benefits of Smoke-Free and Tobacco-Free Policies

Smoke-free and tobacco-free campuses can promote the health and wellbeing of students, faculty, staff, and guests by:

  • Protecting nonusers from the harmful effects of secondhand tobacco smoke and e-cigarette aerosol.
  • Reducing the social acceptability of tobacco product use.
  • Promoting cessation.
  • Preventing tobacco use initiation.

The study also found that, among the college and university campuses that had smoke-free or tobacco-free polices, 80 percent specifically prohibited e-cigarette use, and 41 percent specifically prohibited hookah (water pipe) smoking.

“The tobacco product landscape is changing, and our nation’s young people are using a variety of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and hookahs,” said Brian King, Ph.D., deputy director for research translation in CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. “It’s important that we keep pace by ensuring our proven tobacco prevention and control interventions include these products.”

What More Can Be Done?

Continued efforts to monitor, promote, implement, and enforce smoke-free and tobacco-free policies across U.S. college and university campuses, in coordination with continued implementation of proven population-based strategies and tobacco product regulation, can help reduce the burden of tobacco product use on these campuses. These strategies include:

  • Increasing the price of tobacco products.
  • Protecting people from exposure to secondhand smoke and e-cigarette aerosol.
  • Continuing hard-hitting media campaigns that warn about the dangers of using tobacco products.
  • Restricting youth access to all tobacco products.

Each year in the United States, cigarette smoking causes an estimated 480,000 deaths, including more than 41,000 deaths from secondhand smoke exposure among nonsmoking adults.

For more on quitting smoking and preventing young people from using tobacco products, visit

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