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How the Tobacco-Free College Program has helped campuses protect 1 million people

More than 100 colleges and universities now have smoke- or tobacco-free policies through the Truth Initiative® Tobacco-Free College Program, protecting more than 1 million students, faculty and staff members.

The institutions join a growing number of U.S. colleges and universities with smoke-free policies — a number that has continued to rise since more than doubling between 2012 and 2017.

video profiling schools from the first two years of the Tobacco-Free College Program

Virtually all smokers — 99% — start smoking before age 26. That’s why Truth Initiative, in partnership with CVS Health Foundation, offers grants of up to $20,000 to women’s colleges, minority-serving academic institutions and community colleges to advocate for, adopt and implement a 100% smoke- or tobacco-free policy. Grantees of the Tobacco-Free College Program receive guidance through webinars, learning communities, an in-person training and one-on-one consultations throughout the grant period. Using the principles of community organizing and direct action, truth® college leaders work to build momentum for change on their campuses. (Listen to this interview with CEO and President of Truth Initiative Robin Koval on the Healthy Communities podcast from Aetna and CVS to learn more.)

The program has awarded grants to a total of 183 colleges and universities, including 154 in partnership with CVS Health Foundation. Of all the grantees, 103 schools have so far completed and adopted comprehensive tobacco- or smoke-free policies, protecting 1,030,000 students, faculty and staff members from the harms of smoking and secondhand smoke.

To help institutions pass campus policies, Truth Initiative conducted a case study on the program, finding that success requires “thoughtful planning and multiple stakeholders.” 

The case study, published in Tobacco Prevention & Cessation, evaluated 135 institutions every six months from 2015 to 2017 to assess their progress. Researchers found that schools that undertake more policy activities, such as creating a taskforce, increased the perceived importance of the policy among the campus community and were ultimately more likely to pass and enact the policy.

“By coordinating resources and support via multiple sources (e.g. community health departments, student governments, college administration), college campuses are in a unique position to empower students, faculty, and staff to participate in efforts towards a healthier life and environment,” the authors write, adding that “implementing tobacco-related policies requires a concerted effort to bring together many sectors of the campus community to engage in this process.”