Smoke-Free Campus: Another Step Towards Higher Education

Smoking has serious consequences for students and institutions of higher education. Not maintaining smoke-free campus policies puts non-smoking students, faculty, and visitors at risk.


Cigarette companies negatively affect our nation’s colleges and universities by threatening students’ physical and mental health. Adopting a smoke-free campus supports the concept of Higher Education through the cultivation of personal responsibility and leadership. Every college and university should have a hand in protecting their student body, faculty, staff, and visitors from the effects of smoking, and the equal effects of second-hand smoke.

In regards to Higher Education, students should have the ability to access information associated with the practices of American-based businesses. Students should have the opportunity to be informed about the companies that market to them. According to Tobacco Free Kids, since the Multistate Settlement Agreement, marketing efforts have drastically increased. “The tobacco companies have also stepped up their marketing efforts directed at college students and others in the 18 to 21 year-old age group by sponsoring musical events at college bars, advertising in college newspapers, providing free samples to college students, and through other means.”

Laws and Effects

  • The majority of local and state laws do not include college campuses, however, a few states include state-funded schools in smoke-free workplace laws, according to the ANRF.
  • As reported by Tobacco Free Kids, ads have long targeted young adults to maximize the opportunity to adopt new generations.
  • According to News Medical, cigarettes are considered to be more addictive than heroin.
  • A report by the Cleveland Medical Clinic shows that smoking greatly reduces students’ chances of playing professional sports.
  • According to YgoY Health Community, smoking also greatly reduces brain function.
  • The Human Rights Watch reports that cigarette companies use child labor to manufacture their products.


Big Tobacco’s marketing structure is aimed toward young adults in order to ensure their products’ success and growth, generation to generation. College campuses and universities are especially susceptible to these marketing practices, as cigarette companies focus their advertisements on the treasured diversity of the student body, according to the CDC.

According to the 2012 Surgeon General’s Report on “Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults”, in 2010, there were over 20 million students enrolled in degree-granting institutions of Higher Educations. This does not include the faculty, staff, or visitors to these campuses that also suffer the impact of a campus policy that does not incorporate smoke-free policies or regulations.

Tobacco use hits an apex at 18-25 years old. College attendance may avert tobacco use due to smoke-free campus policies. In 2010, nearly 25% of full-time college students between the ages of 18 and 22 years old were established smokers. Due to tobacco marketing which targets young adults, the number of smokers who initiated smoking beyond the age of 18 suffered an increase from 600,000 in the year 2002, to 1,000,000 in 2010. By the age of 26, smoking usually progresses from casual, to daily habitual smoking. However, smoke-free campus policies offer an opportunity to create and sustain tobacco-free living practices. Some Universities intentionally allow so-called “vaping” — vaporizing nicotine e-liquid using “electronic cigarettes” (learn more) to further reduce the impact of second-hand smoke on the non-smokers, while restricting traditional smoking. There are still no proof if this practice works.

A primary benefit of a smoke-free campus, is the protection of non-smoking students, faculty, staff, and visitors. According to the CDC, there is no acceptable or risk-free level of exposure to second-hand smoke. “Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers. Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic and about 70 can cause cancer.” Exposure to second-hand smoke carries the same dangers to non-smokers, as the smokers themselves.

Adopting Smoke-Free Campus Policies

Colleges and universities are institutions which cultivate and educate new generations. These institutions teach more than basic educational principles involved with obtaining a degree, they teach students the expectancies of the real world. These institutions teach students how to apply what they learn in everyday situations. Adopting smoke-free campus policies are an extension of this preparation. These policies not only nurture responsibility and decision-making skills, it further protects those who do not smoke from harm that is equal to that from which smokers face. It further takes a stance against unethical child labor.

Staying Smoke-Free


There are tools available for students in order to help them quit smoking, and/or further understand the effects of smoking. Free downloadable mobile apps such as NCI QuitPal, which is a free app from the National Cancer Institute that assists smokers who want to become smoke-free. It is an interactive app, developed using proven cessation strategies and tools which support a change in addictive behavior. SmokefreeTXT is a mobile text messaging service created for young adults who are trying to quit smoking. The program was designed to give encouragement 24 hours a day. This includes advice and tips to help individuals stay smoke-free.

Adopting a smoke-free campus policy does not hinder individual rights. It protects them.