The Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative states that, as of April 1st, 2016, there were 1,483 smoke-free college campuses in the United States. Over two-thirds (1,137) of those campuses were fully tobacco-free, meaning they currently prohibit the use of tobacco in any form – including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, etc.
Though the dangers of using tobacco are generally well known in American society today, the statistics of tobacco use (especially among youth) are still alarming. There are more than 480,000 deaths each year in the U.S. caused by cigarette use and exposure to secondhand smoke, and more than 16 million Americans suffer from a disease caused by smoking. In fact, “tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the country” and “smoking kills more Americans than alcohol, car crashes, AIDS-related causes, fires, heroin, cocaine, homicide and suicide combined.”
Tobacco has also been proven to have a harmful effect on the environment. Of the more than 172 toxic substances tobacco smoke contains, three are regulated outdoor air pollutants, 33 are hazardous air pollutants, 47 are chemicals restricted as hazardous waste and 67 are known human or animal carcinogens, according to the Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative. Honing in on campus policies regarding tobacco use and eliminating these risks on college campuses nationwide is certainly a good place to start. Another benefit of tobacco-free policies is that they help to reduce the cost for grounds and building maintenance on college campuses.
There’s a growing social norm supporting smoke-free college campuses because the academic community is engaging in new policies for campus health and wellbeing, says Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. They also emphasize that the number of campuses going smoke- and tobacco-free increased significantly since 2009, largely due to the fact that the majority of Americans actually don’t smoke and nearly half (49.1%) of the U.S. population is protected by a 100% smokefree Workplace, Restaurant, and Bar law. It’s essential to note that most local and state laws don’t include college campuses. Campuses that adopt smoke- or tobacco-free policies are helping to protect students and employees from secondhand smoke.
Though policies can’t be entirely regulated or enforced, colleges can initiate a change in campus climate surrounding social norms on tobacco use. 3rd Millennium Classrooms offers Nicotine 101, an online course that provides the necessary tools for students to make healthy choices about tobacco use. It aims to address the behaviors of those who use nicotine and to provide valuable information on long-term use and adverse health effects. Presented in a motivational interviewing style, Nicotine 101 empowers students to make their own decisions about nicotine use and is valuable in aiding college campuses in enforcing new smoke- and tobacco-free policies.