Tobacco use is the leading cause of premature and preventable death, responsible for 480,000 deaths a year in the United States. As highlighted in the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, cigarette smoking alone is responsible for more deaths than HIV/AIDS, alcohol, motor vehicle crashes, homicide, suicide, illegal drugs and fires – COMBINED. And these statistics do not include the numerous, serious health problems, financial costs, and lost productivity associated with tobacco use. Tobacco addiction begins almost exclusively among youth and young adults. The 2012 Surgeon General’s Report shows that 99% of smokers begin smoking and using other forms of tobacco by age 26, making college and university campuses a critical target for tobacco use prevention and cessation efforts.
In an effort to protect our youth and young adults against this epidemic, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) created the Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative (TFCCI) to promote and support the adoption and implementation of tobacco-free policies at universities, colleges, and other institutions of higher learning across the United States. The Initiative collaborates closely with academic leaders, public health advocates, students, researchers, and other concerned citizens across the U.S. to accelerate the elimination of tobacco use on college campuses everywhere. Since 2012, the truth Initiative and the American Cancer Society have also created targeted programs to support this effort. Collectively, the national TFCCI has worked with academic institutions individually as well as key local partners to see an incredible growth in the number of smoke- and tobacco-free campuses nationally.
TFCCI’s mission emphasizes the inclusion of universities, colleges, community colleges, and other educational institutions within very diverse environments. The resources it provides are varied and can be customized to individual circumstances. Success in this popular, collective endeavor can protect millions of lives. This is a lofty goal, but an attainable one as we are witnessing exponential growth in the adoption of these policies by academic institutions in all regions of the country.