Healthy Students, Healthy Schools

Tobacco-free campus policies protect students and improve campus atmosphere

College should be a safe, healthy place for students to learn and prepare for “the real world.” Unfortunately, many college campuses across Colorado allow smoking, which exposes nonsmokers to dangerous secondhand smoke, normalizes unhealthy behaviors, and results in increased litter on campus.


Exposure to secondhand smoke

Allowing smoking on college campuses exposes students, faculty and staff to dangerous secondhand smoke. That can cause a number of health problems, including coronary heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.1

And that’s true even if the smoking is taking place outside. Studies show outdoor secondhand smoke levels can be equal to or greater than indoor secondhand smoke when smoking is occurring closeby.2


Encourages unhealthy behaviors

Allowing smoking on campus not only increases the exposure to secondhand smoke, but it also could contribute to students, particularly those living on campus, developing and maintaining a tobacco addiction.

One in four full-time college students aged 18-22 years old were current smokers in 2010.3

Increasingly, young adults are turning to other tobacco products, including vaping, hookah and chewing tobacco. Passing a tobacco free campus policy sends the message that the college is invested in creating a healthier environment through preventing tobacco addiction of all kinds.


Increased litter on campus

Cigarette butts are the most commonly littered item in the United States.4 Not only is it unsightly, cigarette butts last for years and allows more than 4,000 chemicals to seep into the soil and water supply.5

However, campuses with 100 percent tobacco-free policies have significantly less tobacco product litter than campuses with no outdoor restrictions.6


The solution?

Implement a campus-wide smoke- and tobacco-free policy. You’ll be in good company: As of Jan. 2, 2018, there are at least 2,106 campuses nationwide that are 100 percent smoke-free. Of these, 1,771 are also 100 percent tobacco-free and 1,686 also prohibit vaping.7

Smoke- and tobacco-free policies protect students, faculty and staff of colleges across Colorado from secondhand smoke exposure, help discourage tobacco use, and keep campuses clean and healthy for everyone.


Compliance and enforcement

The stronger the law, the greater the public health benefit AND the easier it is to comply with the rules. The key to success is to keep it simple: 100% smoke-free or tobacco-free in all places at all times. No exemptions means no confusion as to when and where one might be able to smoke.

Communication is also a key to your success. Be sure to involve all parties in the public debate about any new proposed policy. It’s important to ensure everyone knows why the policy was enacted, what is expected of them to comply, when it will take effect, how to get help if they want to quit smoking and where to file a complaint if necessary. Many colleges take the following steps to promote the policy:

  • Clearly post signs on campus. Free signs are available for smoke and tobacco free campuses at
  • Send notices announcing the policy well in advance of the implementation date via employee pay stubs.
  • Write an article for the student newspaper.
  • Prominently post the policy on the school website.
  • Use internal staff and student communication channels, such as newsletters and e-mail lists.
  • Other current communication sources.8

It’s also important to support employees and students who smoke and may want to quit after the policy is enacted. Free coaching and medication is available through the Colorado QuitLine. Call 1-800-QUITNOW or enroll online at Free QuitLine promotional materials are available at

For more information on helping faculty and staff transition to a smoke or tobacco-free environment, visit our Smoke/Tobacco-Free Worksites page.


1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Let’s Make the Next Generation Tobacco-Free: Your Guide to the 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. [PDF–795 KB] Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014 [accessed 2016 Jan 11].
2. Klepeis NE, Ott WR, Switzer P. (2007) Real-time Measurement of Outdoor Tobacco Smoke Particles. Journal of Air Waste Manag Assoc. 2007; May; 57 (5): 522-34
3. American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.
4. Tilson, E.C., McBride, C.M., Lipkus, C.M., Catalano, R.F. (2004). Testing the Interaction between Parent-Child Relationship Factors and Parent Smoking to Predict Youth Smoking. J. Adolescent Health, 35(3), 182-189.
5. Slaughter, E., Gersberg, R.M., Watanabe, K., Rudolph, J., Stransky, C., Novotny, T.E. (2011). Toxicity of Cigarette Butts, and their Chemical Components, to Marine and Freshwater Fish. Tobacco Control, 20, i25-i29.
6. Lee, J.G.L., Ranny, L.M., Goldstein, A.O. (2013). Cigarette Butts near Building Entrances: What is the Impact of Smoke Free College Campus Policies? Tobacco Control, 22, 107-112.
7. American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.
8. American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.