Smoke-Free Campuses Surge Nationwide

 Katelyn Newman

THE NUMBER OF smoke-free college and university campuses has more than doubled in five years, according to a new study.

As of November 2017, at least 2,082 U.S. college and university campuses – including those of public, private, community, historically black and tribal schools – had smoke-free policies, up from 774 campuses in 2012 – the year the federal government and its partners launched the Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative.

The study, published Thursday and conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, also found that of the smoke-free campuses, about 84 percent had tobacco-free policies – meaning they barred the use of smokeless tobacco products – 80 percent had e-cigarette restrictions and 41 percent prohibited hookah smoking.

Cigarette smoking is responsible for an estimated 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, the report states, including around 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure.

“Colleges and universities are ideal places to promote healthy behaviors that can continue for a lifetime, including being tobacco-free,” Corinne Graffunder, the director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said in a statement. “Tobacco-free campus policies could help reduce tobacco use and provide people with a healthier environment to live, work, and learn.”

The number of campuses with smoke-free policies planned or implemented ranged by state and territory, from one in Hawaii and the Northern Mariana Islands to 108 in North Carolina and California, according to the report. Wyoming was the only state in which no smoke-free campuses were identified.

While colleges and universities can enact their own smoke-free practices, four states – Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa and Louisiana – as well as the Northern Mariana Islands have enacted laws prohibiting smoking indoor and outdoor on public campuses, according to the study. Iowa's state law also applies to its private institutions.

The rise in college campuses invoking smoke-free policies inversely mirrors a national decline in cigarette smoking. As of 2016, 15.5 percent of adults in the U.S. smoked cigarettes – down from 20.5 percent in 2005 – but nearly 38 million American adults smoked cigarettes “every day” or “some days,” according to the CDC. The rate reportedly fell to about 14 percent in 2017.

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