Smokefree College Campuses

New Jersey smokefree laws covering colleges

As of October 21, 2005, dormitories at all New Jersey colleges and universities are required to be smokefree by law. The New Jersey Smokefree College Residential Housing Law prohibits smoking in any portion of a building used as a student dormitory that is owned and operated or otherwise utilized by a school or institution of higher education. (NJSA 26:3D-17). This law eliminates secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure inside the dorms and reduces the risk of dormitory fires. The 2006 NJ Smokefree Air Act requires outdoor smokefree buffer zones by doorways and windows to public buildings (e.g. dorm lobbies and hallways). Counties and colleges can institute 100% smokefree campus policies that include outdoor spaces such as Bergen County Community College which bans smoking fence-to-fence on its property.

Moreover, outdoor SHS poses a health risk to persons outside. Both campus workers and students are forced to inhale dangerous carcinogens as they traverse the campuses that are their places of work, study, and residence. Counties and colleges can institute 100% smokefree campus policies that include outdoor spaces, such as Bergen County Community College which bans smoking fence-to-fence on its property.

In February 2013, Assemblywomen Celeste Riley (D-Cumberland) and Connie Wagner (D-Bergen) introduced Assembly bill A3894 that would ban smoking and smokeless tobacco use at all college campuses, both indoors and outside. Several New Jersey colleges and universities ban smoking outdoors either partially or 100%, and some ban all tobacco use including smokeless tobacco. This legislation would amend the 2006 Smoke Free Air Act to include college campuses. Read a June 16, 2013 news article about the proposed legislation that was on the agenda for discussion by the Higher Education committee on June 13.

New Read an August 26, 2013 interview with the Howard Koh, MD, MPH, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health, who helped launch the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative in 2012 (TFCCI). The interview talks about the success of TFCCI so far, and what’s ahead in tobacco control efforts for young adults by the Department of Health and Human Services. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) aims for widespread expansion of smoke- and tobacco-free college policies through the work of tobacco control organizations. TFCCI is a priority for the Surgeon General and HHS has enlisted key leaders from universities, colleges, and the public health community to engage in a public/private partnership to promote the adoption of tobacco-free policies at institutions of higher learning. GASP is a TFCCI Charter Partner.

Read a USA Today article from July 9, 2013 stating there are about 1,180 schools with 100% smoking bans. University systems and states are considering passing bans affecting multiple campuses to encourage healthy, tobacco-free lifestyles for students and faculty, and recognizing that lifetime smoking habits frequently begin at college-age. In 2012, Oklahoma made all state-owned property, including public colleges, tobacco-free. Iowa and Arkansas already have a ban in place for state-sponsored learning institutions, and in June 2013, the Louisiana legislature passed a similar bill. According to a September 9, 2012 USA Today article, there were 774 college campuses around the USA that had banned smoking as of July 1, 2012, including 562 that had banned tobacco use altogether. That's up from 131 campuses in 2008.

The December 20, 2012 issue of the Journal of American College Health focuses on tobacco-free college campus policies. Review the list of articles in this issue. Read the December 18, 2012 News-Medical.Net news story announcing the issue. The issue includes an editorial by Reginald Fennell PhD, Should College Campuses Become Tobacco Free Without an Enforcement Plan?, which discusses the importance of enforcing tobacco-free college campus policies.

Why create a 100% smokefree college campus policy?

100% smokefree college campus policies protect the health of students, faculty and staff, improved campus safety by reducing fire risks, and promotes a cost-saving, green environment. Studies show that outdoor concentrations of secondhand smoke can be as high as indoor levels in smoking environments. Carelessly discarded cigarette butts are a leading cause of wildfires, and a danger to children and pets if consumed. Tobacco waste is also a major source of litter on many campuses. Penn State estimated that they spent $150,000 in the year 2000 to clean up cigarette butt litter on their 15,000-acre campus.

A study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, published in the journal Tobacco Control in December 2011, concluded that 77% fewer cigarette butts are found on county college campuses that adopt 100% smokefree campus-wide policies. 19 college campuses in North Carolina were studied. The 100% smokefree community college campuses also had significantly fewer cigarette butts at entrances than those with limited or no outdoor restrictions. The study used an objective measure - cigarette litter - to evaluate the impact of college campus tobacco-free policies. Read news story on the study.

More recently, colleges and universities are striving to create 'green' environments to promote a clean, sustainable campus. Outdoor smoky conditions are contrary to student and campus employee expectations of a safe, clean campus.

November 2011, The American College Health Association issued a position statement with regard to the use of tobacco products on college campuses.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends employers create policies to ban tobacco use both outdoors and indoors. In New Jersey, 6 colleges have implemented 100% smoke- or tobacco-free fence-to-fence, including parking lots, private vehicles and athletic fields, and seven colleges have comprehensive outdoor smoke- or tobacco-free policies, limited only by mixed jurisdiction over properties. Others New Jersey colleges have partial or incomplete outdoor smoke- or tobacco-free policies. Nearby CUNY has developed a 100% smokefree policy for all of their campuses starting September 2012.

To learn more about the hazards of outdoor secondhand smoke and the benefits of outdoor smokefree policies, read our white paper on Smokefree Outdoor Recreational Areas.

Guide to create a smoke- and tobacco-free college campus

GASP is the face of college tobacco control in New Jersey. We have provided support and technical assistance to over a dozen colleges in New Jersey considering smoke- or tobacco-free campus policies, including successful policies at Berkeley College, Eastwick College and Essex County College. GASP has presented on smoke- and tobacco-free college campus policies at the New Jersey Presidents’ Council, the National Conference on Tobacco or Health, the Smoke-Free Campus Symposium and the New Jersey College Health Association, as well as at colleges around the state. We are proud to be a member of the Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative, and excited to work with the FDA, HHS, the Surgeon General, and organizations around the country to make more colleges tobacco-free.

Creating a tobacco-free campus policy provides a timely opportunity for students and employees to lead tobacco-free lives. An essential step to going tobacco-free is to offer tobacco cessation resources to help people quit smoking and other forms of tobacco use. Over 70% of New Jersey adult smokers want to quit. Here are key steps your school can take to integrate tobacco cessation into your college's new smoke- or tobacco-free policy:

GASP can serve as a resource during your transition. We also have educational materials available to help you bring a better smoke- or tobacco-free policy to your campus. Please call our office (908) 273-9368 for additional information.

Last update: 12/13/13