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