Tobacco-Free vs. Smoke-Free Policies

An increasing number of the colleges and universities seeking to reduce tobacco use and exposure on campus are adopting comprehensive tobacco-free policies. About two-thirds of the campus policies now in place are fully tobacco-free, reflecting a shift in social norms across the nation and strengthening the public health response.

  • The American College Health Association recommends that colleges and universities "Develop a strongly worded tobacco policy that reflects the best practices in tobacco prevention, cessation, and control. These include the following recommendations [among other measures]: a. Tobacco is defined as all tobacco-derived or containing products, including, but not limited to, cigarettes (clove, bidis, kreteks), electronic cigarettes, cigars and cigarillos, hookah-smoked products, and oral tobacco (spit and spitless, smokeless, chew, snuff). b. Tobacco use is prohibited on all college and university grounds, college/university owned or leased properties, and in campus-owned, leased, or rented vehicles..."
  • Tobacco-Free Campuses (American Lung Association): "This list does not include colleges with 'smoke-free campus' policies that do not address other forms of tobacco use. Prohibiting only cigarette smoking may lead to the unintended consequence of increased use of 'smokeless tobacco' products, which are being heavily marketed by the tobacco industry to young adults and others for use in settings where smoking is not allowed. Because these products are not safe alternatives to smoking, it is important that they be addressed in campus policies and related educational activities. In addition, this list only includes institutions where the policy covers the entire college or university, versus just one of their locations."
  • An example is the new policy adopted by Ohio State University, one of the nation's largest academic institutions.

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Compliance and Enforcement

"The tips highlighted [here] include proven strategies for helping college and university administrators, students, faculty, staff and other interested parties employ effective approaches to successful implementation of their tobacco- or smoke-free policies, including actions that should be taken even before the policy goes into effect."

"The purpose of this article is to describe an innovative ambassador program to increase adherence with a tobacco-free campus policy. The Tobacco-Free Take Action! (TFTA!) Ambassador program was created to form an environment of compliance."
"[W]ithout a clearly defined and actionable enforcement component, [smoke-free and tobacco-free] policies serve little purpose. This has become a policy enforcement issue that campus leaders should address. ... College and university administrators should demonstrate leadership by having violators of tobacco-free campus policies held to the same standard as those who violate other policies."
  • Campus Instructional Videos


"E-cigarettes should be included in smoke-free laws both to protect non-users from possible harm caused by exposure to e-cigarette emissions and to facilitate enforcement of these laws. Allowing e-cigarette use in smoke-free places makes enforcement of smoke-free laws more difficult, requiring business owners and officials to distinguish between e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes and possibly encouraging cigarette smokers to flout the law."

  • Electronic Cigarettes (Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California - San Francisco)

"The claim that e-cigarettes emit only harmless water vapor is not true. Although e-cigarette aerosol delivers lower levels of many toxins than cigarette smoke, the aerosol still contains nicotine, ultrafine particles, other toxic chemicals, and carcinogens."

"Electronic cigarettes and nicotine inhalers both deliver nicotine to your body without tobacco. But that's where the similarity ends. The two are quite different when it comes to how they're used and how much doctors know about their safety. Nicotine inhalers are a proven safe and effective way to help people stop smoking. In contrast, very little is known about the health effects of electronic cigarettes ... Also, no convincing evidence shows that e-cigarettes are useful in helping people to eventually stop smoking."

"E-cigarettes do not just emit 'harmless water vapor.' Secondhand e-cigarette aerosol ... contains nicotine, ultrafine particles and low levels of toxins that are known to cause cancer ... E-cigarette vapor is a new source of pollution and toxins being emitted into the environment. We do not know the long-term effects of e-cigarette use and although the industry marketing of the product implies that these products are harmless, the vapor that e-cigarettes emit is not purely water vapor."

Tobacco Use Cessation

Effectiveness of Tobacco-Free and Smoke-Free Policies

The U.S Assistant Secretary for Health Talks about TFCCI and Tobacco Use on College Campuses

The U.S. Department of Education is now promoting tobacco-free campuses. See the guest blog by Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh on the Department of Ed's "Homeroom" website.

See Dr. Howard Koh's interview about TFCCI on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's "New Public Health" blog page.

Dr. Koh published this informative article on the day of a major tobacco-free college campus symposium at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he delivered the keynote address.

Another great resource, this is Dr. Koh's guest commentary in the National Cancer Institute's "NCI Cancer Bulletin."

Environmental Impact

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