Tobacco Free College Campuses

National Tobacco-Free College Campus InitiativeApproximately 18.9 percent of young adults in the U.S. between the ages of 18-24 smoke. And as documented by the 2012 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, almost no one starts smoking after age 25. Progression from occasional to daily smoking frequently occurs during the first years following high school. Thus, tobacco prevention and cessation efforts should include young adults, making college and university campuses a critical target.

College and university campuses offer unique opportunities for promoting social norms that support healthy living and lifestyle choices. The Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative, a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the University of Michigan and the American College Health Association, encourages the voluntary adoption of tobacco-free policies at institutions of higher learning across the nation. These policies not only support the many people on college campuses who are trying to quit but also dissuade young adults from starting.

Institutions of higher learning around the country are increasingly adopting new policies that reinforce their longstanding commitments to student health while strengthening and protecting their communities against tobacco addiction. When the initiative launched in September 2012, 774 colleges and universities were tobacco- or smoke-free, according to the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. Today more than 1,159 university and college campuses have implemented tobacco- or smoke-free policies, reflecting exponential growth.

All are welcome to participate in the Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative – university and college leaders, administrators, faculty members, students and student groups. For more information or to get started, please visit

Dr. Howard K. Koh is the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


  1. The comment from the student at U of Arkansas, Pine Bluff regarding the smoke-free campus policy not working is not surprising in that such policies when mandated by legislation do not reflect the culture of the college or university effected. We saw the same result from similarly mandated smoke-free or tobacco-free policies in hospitals and medical centers. Don’t get me wrong smoke-free or preferably tobacco-free campus policies are very desirable given the damage to others and the environment caused by such use. The success of such policies is much more effectively achieved when institutions adopt the policies as an expression of their mission and through the governance process. Legislated policies end up
    Being unfunded mandates that will only work when the larger culture has become intolerant of tobacco use in public. Unfortunately that will take a while and most important denies higher education institutions the important role of advocating for health and respect!

    Ty Patterson
    Executive Director

    National Center for Tobacco Policy
    Springfield Missouri

  2. At our campus, the students are highly resistant to complete smoking ban efforts. We have a very small campus with a community governance system rather than student government separated from staff or faculty governance in campus-wide issues. So, when our smoking policies are up for changing, everyone has a say. In essence, this is a wonderful way to participate in democratic decision making. However, when there are a lot of students who are currently smokers and who highly value their right to smoke, it becomes very challenging to push forward a complete smoking ban that will pass with enough votes. We have definitely made strides in the right direction. There are three outdoor locations where you cannot smoke withing 20 feet of the building, including our Dining Hall, the Total Health Center and the Library. But I think we are still a ways off from complete smoking ban on our campus unless the state of Vermont passes a law saying college campuses must ban smoking.

  3. Ejoyed, the article even though the University of Arkansas at Pine Blull is a smoke FREE campus I still notice students smoking and, I do bring it to their attention regarding the policy that is inforced here at the university.

  4. There is an alarming rate of tabacco smokers in the U.S, in my my engagement with youth and promoting a healthier lifestyle I have discovered that many have become attached to smoking through social bonding and a stress reliever. As I have discuss the dangerous effects of smoking I have been successful in imparting some knowledge to these individuals and some still with some resistance. I am surprise to discover the amount of smokers on college campus in particular those who engage in smoking while studying in the medical field.
    The most effective solution is to find ways to reduce stress and promote more engaging programs to keep these population of smokers from becoming attached and engage in substance abuse.

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