On Wednesday, Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway announced that the school is undertaking a new initiative to make its campuses “Tobacco-Free by 2023.”
The policy, which takes effect as of Jan. 1, 2023, applies to all campuses – indoors and outdoors – and encompasses all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, hookah, novel tobacco products, and smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco. It will apply to all students, employees and visitors.
“By declaring our campuses tobacco-free, we aim to make our community a healthier place to live, learn and work as we educate smokers about the resources available to help them quit,” said Holloway.
The new initiative builds on Rutgers’ current policy that prohibits smoking inside and within 30 feet of university-owned and -operated buildings.
“About 90% of smokers begin by age 18 when many young people are entering college, and most move from experimenting to regularly smoking within a few years,” said Kevin Schroth, associate professor at the Rutgers Center for Tobacco Studies and the Rutgers School of Public Health. “By discouraging young people from starting to use cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, by encouraging current tobacco users to quit, and in doing so reducing secondhand smoke exposure, this policy will improve the health of students, faculty and staff.”
In 2021, Rutgers conducted a survey of students and employees that found nearly 75% supported a tobacco-free campus. The survey also found 9 out of 10 respondents agreed that universities have a responsibility to adopt policies that ensure people have smoke-free and vapor-free air to breathe.
“Creating a tobacco-free campus at Rutgers can benefit the entire community,” said Schroth.
“When we look at the data from other schools, it shows that implementing policies like this help reduce tobacco use,” said Katie La Capria, a master of public health student who worked on the RU Tobacco Free project. “Our surveys found strong support for this policy and also found that those who use tobacco on campus want to quit but are not aware of the resources to help them. Implementing this policy will raise more awareness regarding those resources available to help people quit and move them in the right direction.”
“We want Rutgers to be a healthy environment for all of our community members,” said Rutgers Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Antonio Calcado. “By making our campuses tobacco free, we will make Rutgers an even better place to learn, work and live.”