Things to Consider

High Risk Populations

Freshmen: Most freshmen are living away from home for the first time, making them susceptible to peer pressure. This brand new autonomy, and less structured environment, can lead to students picking up smoking on a more than casual basis. Looking for ways to make new friends could lead freshmen to start smoking without realizing the addictive properties and serious health risks.

Greek Life: Fraternity and Sorority members focus on social gatherings, and are known to party. As such, they may fall victim to combination drinking and smoking (“I only smoke when I drink”) behaviors. An unpublished study from the late 1990s through Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Maryland found that well over half of all sorority women smoke (Hancock, 2003). Fraternities, especially, have been targeted specifically by smokeless tobacco companies.

LGBT: Used to combat stress, tobacco can help the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community find a way to deal with issues of coming out. Conversely, it can also serve as a stress relief to GLBT students who are not ready to come out yet, but are avoiding exclusion. Because of this added stress, a 2001 study found that GLBT adolescents were 1.5 times more likely to smoke cigarettes than the average adolescent. As they transition to adulthood, this rate goes down, making the late-adolescent time in college critical to keeping this community off tobacco (Ryan, 2001).

Art/Theater students: Typically, art students take studio format classes, characterized by long, uninterrupted blocks of studio time. Breaks administered by the instructor can result in a clustering effect of smokers, attracting non-smokers who seek more time away from class. Set breaks from theater productions can lead to this same grouping of students who form a pack of smokers. For both art and theater students, cigarettes have the added allure of seeming artsy, or theatrical.

Women: Smoking is often linked with weight and body image. Women often tend to be concerned about their weight management, and cigarettes play a key role in that. Smoking helps them maintain a lower weight, and also provides stress management for women in courses of study where weight could be an issue, such as fashion design or theater.

Athletes: Sometimes seen as a healthy alternative to smoking, athletes, mainly baseball players, consistently use smokeless tobacco more frequently than their non-athlete counterparts. Smoking can be seen as negatively impacting performance, while snuff or dip use is less likely than cigarettes to affect lung capacity, strength, or overall fitness. Because of this, it is easier to use in a practice or even game setting where there is a lot of standing around and boredom can sometimes set in during a long, slow game. Rodeo club participants, snowmobilers and hunters/fishermen groups are also known to use smokeless tobacco at higher rates than the general population.

Read more about priority populations.

Journal article about college students and tobacco use

Journal Article: Study finding that smoke-free campus policies positively effect student smoking behaviors

Secondhand Smoke Facts

The U.S. Surgeon General released a 2010 report the health effects of tobacco smoke that reminds us that, "any exposure to tobacco smoke, even an occassional cigarette or exposure to secondhand smoke, is harmful."  The full report and fact sheets are available at

According to a 2006 report from the U.S. Surgeon General, “there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke”1 and the EPA has identified secondhand smoke as a Class A carcinogen, the most toxic class of chemicals which are known to cause cancer in humans.2

Secondhand smoke is a leading trigger of asthma attacks and other respiratory problems.3

Secondhand smoke is classified as a “toxic air contaminant,” such as asbestos, lead, vehicle exhaust and a host of other chemicals strictly regulated in the U.S.4

1 United States, Office of the Surgeon General. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke. (Atlanta, GA: Department of Health and Human Services, 2006).
2 United States, Office of Health and Environmental Assessment, Health Effects of Exposure to Secondhand Smoke. (Washington, DC: Environmental Protection Agency, 1992).
3 United States, Office of the Surgeon General. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke. (Atlanta, GA: Department of Health and Human Services, 2006).
4 California Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental Tobacco Smoke: A Toxic Air Contaminant. (Sacramento, CA: California Air Resource Board, 2006).

The following resources are here to assist you in learning more about the science of secondhand smoke exposure on college campuses.

Repace Associates Fact Sheet on Secondhand Smoke
Breathing secondhand smoke causes morbidity and mortality from cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease, as well as acute sensory irritation. It causes the premature death of hundreds of thousands of nonsmokers worldwide. Secondhand smoke cannot be controlled by ventilation, air cleaning, or spatial separation of smokers from nonsmokers. This document contains research from Repace and Associates which addresses indoor and outdoor exposure to secondhand smoke.

Outdoor Secondhand Smoke Video
Research from Stanford University examines how smoking can affect quality of air in outdoor spaces, including benches and common areas of your campus.

Report from Repace and Associates and Stanford University on the Measurements of Outdoor Secondhand Smoke Exposure on College Campuses

The Repace/Stanford University report, “MEASUREMENTS OF OUTDOOR AIR POLLUTION FROM SECONDHAND SMOKE ON THE UMBC CAMPUS,” dispels the common misconception that smoking outdoors can be ignored because smoke immediately dissipates into the environment.

Science Daily: Rates of secondhand smoke exposure high among college students.

Cost of Tobacco Use on Campus

While an in-depth, longitudinal study of the economic costs of tobacco use on college campuses is not currently available, comparable research on the economic costs of smoking and its effects in the restaurant industry exist this 2007 article.

Looking at the effects on patronage and employee retention, researchers found that patronage did not diminish in restaurants affected by smoking bans nor did comparable restaurants in communities without smoking bans see increases in patronage. Likewise, restaurants with smoking bans experienced employee growth, and the resale value of establishments with enacted smoking bans also increased, while those without bans remained the same.

Oregon Tobacco Free Colleges

This booklet specifically addresses the bottom line regarding litter maintenance, fire damages, ADA compliance issues, avoiding legal tangles from people who experience secondhand smoke and environmental sustainability.

Protecting Your Facilities and the Bottom Line

Save money on facilities and maintenance. Tobacco use on campus consumes valuable staff time picking up cigarette butts, emptying ashtrays and handling complaints about secondhand smoke. Unlike having designated smoking areas, going completely tobacco-free doesn’t just move the problem; it eliminates it entirely.

Reduce the risk of fires on campus. Careless smokers start fires by dropping cigarettes in planting areas, bark mulch and trash receptacles. Going tobacco-free eliminates this risk and associated costs, and may decrease fire and property insurance premiums.

Eliminate the risk of ADA accessibility challenges related to tobacco smoke. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires colleges to maintain accessible campuses, including reasonable accommodation for students or employees with medical conditions such as asthma that are triggered by secondhand smoke.

Avoid potential legal liability from student, employee and visitor exposure to secondhand smoke. One in five college students surveyed say they experience immediate health effects from secondhand smoke on campus. For students or staff with asthma, this exposure can aggravate their condition to the point of requiring an emergency room visit. By going tobacco-free, a college addresses the liability risk associated with exposure to a known health hazard on its premises.

Advance sustainability and the triple bottom line. Colleges today are embracing sustainability and integrating this concept into campus operations. Tobacco-free campuses yield social, economic and environmental benefits for the college. Going tobacco-free is a concrete step a college can take to reduce the environmental impacts associated with tobacco use.

The Benefits of Going Tobacco-Free versus Smoke-Free
A smoke-free policy is one that limits or eliminates the use of smoke-producing tobacco, such as cigarettes and cigars with the primary goal of eliminating campus exposure to secondhand smoke. However, a tobacco-free policy limits or eliminates the use of any tobacco product, including, but not limited to, spit tobacco, snus, other “smokeless” products, hookah, etc and several other harmful products readily marketed to young adults. The primary concern of a tobacco-free policy is overall health, safety and behavior of the university. A tobacco-free policy also addresses tobacco sales, marketing, and sponsorship of tobacco on your campus, going so far to prohibit the acceptance of tobacco industry funding is not allowed.

Environmental/Green status

For those campuses with goals of becoming Green, having tobacco butts on the grounds of the school will negate this status because of the toxic chemicals and environmental impact

May 2011 supplement to the Tobacco Control Journal provides additional insight about the environmental impact of cigarette butts, that information can be accessed here.

Additional information about the health, environmental, and financial effects of tobacco litter can be found on this fact sheet from the Tobacco Prevention Settlement Program in California.