Background and Rationale

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable and premature death, accounting for an estimated 480,000 deaths in the United States each year, or one out of every five deaths.1 Most of those deaths were of adult smokers, but 2.5 million were of nonsmokers who died because they breathed secondhand smoke, air that was polluted by other people’s cigarette smoke.More than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease1. Of the roughly 20 million college and university students in the United States, more than 1 million are projected to die prematurely from cigarette smoking.2 The addictive properties of nicotine are well known. It is considered the most addictive of all of the psychoactive drugs. Of all people who have ever used tobacco, 24 percent become addicted.3 While approximately 90 percent of tobacco users start by age 18, fully 99 percent start by age 26, underscoring the importance of supporting those in the young adult age group with more effective prevention and cessation efforts while eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke and all tobacco use in their learning environments.4

While cigarette smoking among young adults has fallen, the use of other nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, has taken a drastic leap. E-cigarettes have become the most common type of tobacco product used by youth and young adults and are creating a new generation of Americans who are at risk of nicotine addiction. A 2016 Surgeon General Report speaks to numerous health concerns related to e-cigarettes and is emblematic of the public health concern in regard to these products.1 There is also evidence that smokeless tobacco users have a significant increase of risks for various health issues, including increased risks for oral, pharynx and esophageal cancers, and ischemic heart disease.5,6

In addition to the significant health consequences associated with smoking, there are overwhelming economic costs as well. Direct medical costs for adults with smoking-related illnesses can exceed $170 billion each year.7 Beyond the costs associated with health care for smokers, there are also costs related to loss of productivity, absenteeism, and environmental cleanup. Furthermore, as students graduate, they are transitioning into tobacco-free work environments. 

In order to counter the negative effects of tobacco on the college population, the American College Health Association (ACHA) has recommended all colleges and universities adopt a 100 percent tobacco-free campus policy8. The initiative to make our nation’s colleges and universities completely smoke and tobacco free continues to grow. As of July 2020, more than 2,500 campuses nationwide were smoke free, with 2,076 of them 100 percent tobacco free.9 In New Jersey there were 19 smoke-free campuses, of which 10 were fully tobacco-free.9 That figure is up 252 percent from just 6 years earlier, and it’s expected to continue a sharp upward trajectory as more colleges embrace the movement to create smoke-free environments for students. Available evidence supports and provides rationale for William Paterson University to adopt and implement a tobacco- and smoke-free policy. A 2018 survey of WP students, faculty and staff has shown that 60% of respondents are in support of tobacco-free campus.10

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2014) The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.
  2. American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society Tobacco-Free Generation Campus Initiative.
  3. Anthony, J.C., Warner, L.A., and Kessler, R.C. (1994). Comparative epidemiology of dependence on tobacco, alcohol, controlled substances and inhalants: Basic findings from the National Comorbidity Survey. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. 2(3): 244-268.
  4. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (US) Office on Smoking and Health. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults - A Report of the Surgeon General.
  5. Siddiqi K, Shah S, Abbas SM, Vidyasagaran A, Jawad M, Dogar O, et al. (2015) Global burden of disease due to smokeless tobacco consumption in adults: analysis of data from 113 countries. BMC Med. 17;13.
  6. Teo KK, Ounpuu S, Hawken S, Pandey MR, Valentin V, Hunt D, et al. (2016). Tobacco use and risk of myocardial infarction in 52 countries in the INTERHEART study: a case-control study. Lancet Lond Engl. 368(9536):647–58.
  7. Xu X, Bishop EE, Kennedy SM, Simpson SA, Pechacek TF. Annual healthcare spending attributable to cigarette smoking: an update. Am J Prev Med. 2015 Mar;48(3):326–33.
  8. American College Health Association. Position Statement on Tobacco on College and University Campuses. November, 2011
  9. American Non-Smoker Rights Foundation: Smoke-free and Tobacco-Free U.S. and Tribal Colleges and Universities.
  10. Kecojevic A, Kernan WD, Urena A, Pereda A, Shair R, Amaya-Fernandez E. (2020). Support for 100% Tobacco-Free Policy on a College Campus in New Jersey: Differences between students and faculty/staff. Journal of Public Health. 1-10. doi: 10.1007/s10389-020-01344-6
  11. Seo, D.C., Macey, J., Torabi, M., & Middlestadt. (2011). The effect of a smoke-free campus policy on college students’ smoking behaviors and attitudes. Preventive Medicine, doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.07.015.
  12. Miller, K., Yu, D., Lee, J., Ranney, L., Simons, D., Goldstein, A. (2015). Impact of the adoption of tobacco-free campus pol-icies on student enrollment at colleges at colleges and universities, North Carolina, 2001-2010. Journal of American College Health. 18:0