Smoke Free and Tobacco Free Policies Have Increased Across College and University Campuses


Tobacco-free and smoke-free polices are on the rise in United States colleges and universities.

Tobacco-free and smoke-free polices are on the rise in United States colleges and universities. Cigarette smoking causes approximately 480,000 deaths, including over 41,000 deaths from secondhand smoke exposure in those who are nonsmokers.1,2 Pharmacists can play an important role in educating teens and adults about the dangers of smoking, and assist patients with selecting an appropriate smoking cessation therapy to kick the habit.

Smoking Statistics and Policies

Surprisingly, about 99% of adult cigarette smokers began smoking before age 26 years, and many individuals transition to regular use as young adults.2 Smoke-free and tobacco-free policies across colleges and universities can help protect students, faculty, and staff from secondhand smoke exposure.2 Secondhand smoke is smoke from burning tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. According to the CDC, most exposure to secondhand smoke occurs in homes, and workplaces.3 In fact since 1964, about 2,500,000 nonsmokers have died from health complications caused by secondhand smoke exposure.3 Secondhand smoke can cause heart disease, lung cancer, and stroke in nonsmokers.

CDC Study and Results

The CDC, and the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation determined the number of college and university campuses in the United States that completely prohibit smoking (smoke-free) or both smoking and smokeless tobacco product use (tobacco-free) in all indoor and outdoor areas to assess policies. As of November 2017, at least 2,082 United States college and university campuses had smoke-free polices, which is twice as many as in 2012.2 Among these campuses, 1,743 (83.7%) were tobacco-free, and some specifically prohibited electronic cigarette use 1,658 (79.6%) and hookah smoking 854 (41%).2

In 2012, the US Department of Health and Human Services, the University of Michigan, and the American College Health Association joined efforts to launch a collaborative program known as the Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative to support tobacco-free policies across colleges and universities.2 This initiative created the foundation to establish more policies in campuses across the nation.

Public Health Implications and Pharmacist Involvement

Evidence demonstrates that smoke-free and tobacco-free policies have public health benefits, such as promoting smoking cessation, and preventing tobacco initiation.2 Campuses should continue to promote smoke-free policies to further increase the initiative across the United States.

It is also important that campuses are also recognizing that electronic cigarettes, and hookah smoking are health problems. Many students may be unaware that these substances are not considered safe alternatives to cigarettes. Secondhand smoke from hookahs can cause health complications for nonsmokers since it contains smoke from the tobacco, and the heat source.

Pharmacists can present to college and university campuses on the dangers of smoking, and the effects of secondhand smoke. Additionally, education in middle and high school may help to prevent the initiation of these products. In campuses without policies, individuals can protect themselves by not allowing individuals to smoke near them.


  • CDC. Tobacco-free policies on the rise across US colleges and universities.CDC website. Accessed June 21, 2018.
  • Wang TW, Tynan MA, Hallett C, et al. Smoke-Free and Tobacco-Free Policies in Colleges and Universities-United States and Territories, 2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018;67:686-689. DOI: Accessed June 25, 2018.
  • CDC. Secondhand smoke (SHS) facts. CDC website. Accessed June 21, 2018.

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