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Most US colleges are not tobacco- and smoke-free, research reveals

Most US four-year colleges and universities as well as community colleges don’t have tobacco-free or smoke-free policies on campus, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, writes Carolyn Crist for Reuters Health.

About 35% have tobacco-free policies that prohibit all tobacco use. Ten percent have smoke-free policies that prohibit cigarettes but not all tobacco. And 54% don’t have any policy, researchers reported.

“Despite years of public health effort, only 59% of the US population is covered by smoke-free non-hospitality workplace, restaurant and bar laws in 2018,” said senior study author Kelvin Choi, a researcher with the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities in Bethesda, Maryland, in email to Reuters Health.

Previous studies have found that smoke-free policies help smokers quit and prevent new smokers from making it a habit, Choi said, particularly in postsecondary educational institutions. Although some adolescents try cigarettes at younger ages, many teens and young adults form a long-term habit around ages 18 to 24.

Choi and colleagues surveyed 605 universities, colleges and community colleges. They found that 229 were tobacco-free, 57 were smoke-free, and 319 were not smoke-free. Schools in the western US were less likely to have smoke-free policies, whereas schools in the south and midwest were more likely to have a policy. Institutions offering only associate degrees (versus bachelor degrees) were also more likely to have smoke- or tobacco-free policies.

In a further analysis, the researchers found that colleges with higher proportions of racial and ethnic minority students were less likely to have a tobacco-free policy, which could compound health disparities for these groups, the authors note. For-profit schools and historically black colleges and universities were less likely to have a smoke-free policy.

[link url=""]Read the full article on the Reuters Health site[/link]


Adoption of Tobacco- and Smoke-Free Policies in a US National Sample of Postsecondary Educational Institutions


The objectives were to examine the institutional characteristics associated with the adoption of tobacco- and smoke-free policies among US postsecondary educational institutions.


In 2017, we collected information on tobacco policy types and institutional characteristics of a national sample of US postsecondary educational institutions (n = 605) attended by the participants of the NEXT Generation Health Study. We used logistic regression to examine the relationships between these variables.


Overall, 35.2% of these institutions adopted tobacco-free policies (i.e., prohibit all tobacco product use on campus), 10.1% had smoke-free policies (i.e., prohibit smoking but not other tobacco product use on campus), and 53.7% did not have tobacco- or smoke-free policies.

Proprietary (privately owned, for-profit) institutions (vs public institutions) were the least likely to have tobacco- or smoke-free policies (P < .05), which were disproportionately attended by racial/ethnic minority students. Adoption of these policies also varied by census region (P < .05).


Prevalence of tobacco- and smoke-free policies among US postsecondary educational institutions is low.

Public health implications

Wide dissemination of evidence-based interventions to accelerate adoption of tobacco-free policies in all postsecondary educational institutions is warranted.


Catherine Trad BA, Jennifer Bayly BS, Launick Saint-Fort BS, Mary Andrews BA, Minal Patel PhD, Melanie Sabado-Liwag PhD, Denise Haynie PhD, Bruce Simons-Morton EdD, and Kelvin Choi PhD, MPH.

Catherine Trad, Jennifer Bayly, Launick Saint-Fort, Mary Andrews, Melanie Sabado-Liwag, and Kelvin Choi are with the Division of Intramural Research, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, Bethesda, MD. Minal Patel is with the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute, Rockville, MD. Denise Haynie and Bruce Simons-Morton are with the Health Behavior Branch, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Rockville.

[link url=""]Article in the American Journal of Public Health[/link]



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