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3 benefits of tobacco-free policies at colleges and universities

Support for smoke- and tobacco-free policies on school campuses has skyrocketed in recent years.

About 8 in 10 current college students in the U.S. support policies that prohibit smoking and other tobacco use at college. Additionally, the number of colleges and universities with comprehensive smoke- or tobacco-free policies more than quadrupled from 446 in 2010 to over 2,000 in 2017.

Since 2015, the Truth Initiative® Tobacco-Free College Program has awarded funding to 135 colleges and universities to advocate for, adopt and implement a 100 percent smoke- or tobacco-free policy. With more initiatives focusing on expanding the number of campuses that ban smoking and tobacco use, here are three benefits of smoke- and tobacco-free policies at colleges and universities.

They reduce tobacco use among young adults.

While the number of schools with smoke- and tobacco-free policies has increased, the amount of college students who smoke cigarettes has declined. Past 30-day cigarette use among college students fell from 16 percent in 2010 to an all-time low of 9 percent in 2016, and the daily smoking rate fell from 7.6 percent to 3 percent during that same time. Data also show downward trends in college students using other tobacco products, including e-cigaretteshookahlittle cigars and traditional cigars.

Besides helping to reduce smoking rates, smoke- and tobacco-free policies also change attitudes toward tobacco use, eliminate secondhand smoke exposure and make it easier for smokers to quit. Working to prevent tobacco use among college students is especially important because 99 percent of smokers start smoking before turning 26 years old.

They create opportunities to educate students about tobacco.

Rolling out a smoke- or tobacco-free policy presents opportunities to educate campus and community membersabout tobacco-related issues and the benefits of a tobacco-free campus. For example, four colleges and universities participated in the truth® Finish Flavors Tour to raise awareness of the impact of menthol and flavored tobacco products, the marketing tactics tobacco companies use to attract young smokers and the school’s upcoming smoke- or tobacco-free policy.

Flavors Tour
Flavors Tour
Flavors Tour
Flavors Tour
Flavors Tour
Flavors Tour

The participating schools — Jackson State UniversityPrairie View A&M University, Northwest Florida State College and North Carolina A&T State University — are grantees of the Truth Initiative Tobacco-Free College Program. During the tour, over 4,000 students were invited to learn about tobacco issues and sign a petition to get menthol tobacco products off the market at an event with music, games, a photo booth and a live mural.

“Education is the key to control the use of any type of tobacco product,” said Melinda Todd, director of the Metro Jackson Community Prevention Coalition at Jackson State University. “The event helped prepare for a tobacco- or smoke-free policy, celebrated the desire to move the campus in that direction and allowed students to also share that vision and be a part of the movement.”

They have economic and environmental benefits.

Worldwide, about 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered each year, making them the most littered item on earth. Smoke- and tobacco-free policies reduce cigarette litter and the risk of fire on campuses. These policies also cut maintenance costs. Cities usually spend between $3 million and $16 million on cigarette cleanup each year.

Smoke- and tobacco-free policies also prepare students for the workforce. An increasing number of worksites are prohibiting tobacco use, and research shows that smokers have a harder time getting hired. The chances of getting a job within a year are reduced by 24 percent for unemployed job seekers who smoke when compared with nonsmokers — even when other factors like substance abuse and criminal history are considered.

Learn more about colleges and universities going smoke- and tobacco-free.