Universities moving to become Tobacco-Free Campuses have spread across the country. At the present time there are more than 1343 universities and colleges that have gone smoke-free. 69% (925) of those institutions are tobacco-free (no tobacco products, e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah, snuff, chewing tobacco). This includes 23 universities and colleges in Florida (including UF, FSU, UCF, FIU, UNF, USF, and NSU). [http://www.no-smoke.org/pdf/smokefreecollegesuniversities.pdf] Some of the other major universities which are Tobacco-Free include: University of Kentucky, UCLA, Emory, University of Illinois-Chicago, Indiana University, Baylor, University of Oregon, and Brigham Young University. All of the public colleges and universities in the state of Georgia will ban all smoking and all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, at the beginning of the fall 2014 semester.
Below are some of the latest findings from the Surgeon General’s Report on the Health Consequences of Smoking - 50 Years of Progress:
Over the last two years, FAU has had a smoking in designated areas policy. We know that these types of policies are only stepping-stones and are not effective in changing behavior. This is evident in the last two FAU campus cigarette butt cleanups along the Boca Breezeway, where, in little over an hour, >10,000 cigarette butts were collected in this non-designated area.
FAU is part of this effort and one of the health efforts is going to a tobacco-free university. In our efforts to move in this direction, we have contacted some of the other state universities in Florida (UF, FIU, UCF, FSU) to learn what they have encountered in moving to a tobacco-free campus. Some of the key items that were shared with us are:
FAU will take the approach of first helping individuals to change their behavior and not enforce the policy as a type of punishment.
The Tobacco-free Campus policy is part of the university’s commitment to creating a healthy and sustainable environment for all members of our campus community, and is designed to be positive and health directed. Individuals noticing violations of the policy should strive to be non-confrontational and respectful to tobacco users when communicating our policy. We hope that with this approach, we can assist individuals in addressing this health behavior and create a healthy and sustainable environment.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found secondhand tobacco smoke to be a risk to public health and has classified secondhand smoke as a group A carcinogen, the most dangerous class of carcinogens.
Most recently, the Surgeon General of the United States concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke and establishing smoke-free environments is the only proven way to prevent exposure.Tobacco-Free Policies Change Tobacco Use Behavior
Tobacco-free campus policies are proven to decrease current smoking prevalence in students, decrease the amount of cigarettes used by those who continue to smoke, positively influence students’ perceptions of peer smoking, change social norms around tobacco use, and increase favorable attitudes towards regulation of tobacco. These findings are consistent with a study that found that college students who lived in smoke-free residences were more likely to be nonsmokers.
Historically, most tobacco users started smoking or using smokeless tobacco before the age of 18. Over the last ten years, this pattern of new addiction has been changing. A recent study found one-fifth of smokers reported starting after the age of 18. Among individuals who started using tobacco before age 18, regular or daily smoking was not established until the ages of 20 or 21.
As students graduate, they are transitioning into tobacco-free environments. Nationwide, worksites, college campuses, health care centers, and outdoor recreational facilities are adopting comprehensive tobacco use policies.
Cigarette waste is extremely toxic to our environment. Cigarette butts contain the same toxic chemicals found in tobacco smoke. The small filter, when wet, releases thousands of toxic chemicals back into the environment. These filters and chemicals are washed into waterways by water runoff.15
By eliminating tobacco litter, colleges are also decreasing fire risk on campus, decreasing the cost and time associated with cleaning up tobacco litter, and increasing campus beautification.
Some recent studies reveal that one in three college students use some form of tobacco. Most students that smoke are not daily smokers. Many are occasional users in social settings. These individuals are still at an increased risk compared to those who have never have smoked. Of these non-daily smokers, 50% remained smokers four years later (35% as non-daily; 14% became daily smokers).
Certain groups of college students have higher rates of tobacco use. Tobacco usage is highest in first year students compared to older students. Many college students greatly overestimate the number of college smokers [27% smokers vs 85% perceived smokers (American Lung Association, 2008)]. Tobacco-Free campus policies change campus norms by decreasing the perceptions of on campus tobacco use. Although generally, a lower percentage of women smoke, they may perceive that smoking is helpful for maintaining their weight. Some athletic groups have had higher tobacco use than others (baseball and football). Many Greek organizations show higher tobacco usage tied with alcohol use. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) students have higher tobacco rates than their peers (ranges of 38% to 59% compared to 28% to 35%). The level of tobacco use within minority groups varies being highest in American Indians, followed by non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanics, non-Hispanic Blacks, and lowest in Asian Americans.
Below are some of the latest findings from the Surgeon General’s Report on the Health Consequences of Smoking-50 Years of Progress http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/reports/50-years-of-progress:
There is no safe level of secondhand smoke. Each year, secondhand smoke is responsible for the deaths of approximately 3000 nonsmokers and 35,000 non-smokers due to coronary heart disease. Most individuals would prefer not to be exposed to secondhand smoke.
Most students prefer Tobacco-Free policies and living in Tobacco-Free environments.
Tobacco-Free workplaces are healthier, and more attractive to potential employees (Dalsey & Park, 2009). Adopting a Tobacco-Free policy has reduced smoking, perception of peer tobacco use and fewer cigarette butts (Seo et al, 2011 & Lee et al, 2011). Tobacco-Free policies reduce costs as removal of butts is reduced, smoking related damage is reduced and the risk of fires is reduced.
Eliminating smoking alone addresses just part of the health concerns. A Tobacco-Free policy is a step in the direction to create a healthier environment for all and highlights that the use of tobacco and nicotine have harmful consequences to smokers and non-smokers.