Why is UVM going tobacco-free?

There are a lot of reasons we could give, but as a public land-grant university with an historic commitment to health, UVM seeks to provide a clean, healthy environment for the entire community. A tobacco-free campus will:

  • Protect people from unwanted and involuntary exposure to tobacco and passive smoke
  • Establish a supportive atmosphere for those trying to quit using tobacco
  • Create a cleaner and healthier living, learning and working environment

What has been the process for making the decision to go tobacco-free?

  • The process began in 2012 with conversations at the University Benefits Advisory Council (UBAC) meetings. The UBAC recommended an approach to create a tobacco-free campus in its annual report to the President.
  • During the same year, the Student Government Association discussed a tobacco-free UVM proposal advanced by one of its committees.
  • At the same time, a UVM medical student, motivated as a result of his role in treating tobacco-related illness, spearheaded a movement that attracted students and others interested in a tobacco-free UVM.
  • Upon consideration of these developments, and in direct response to the UBAC recommendation, President Tom Sullivancommunicated a proposal for a Tobacco-Free UVM in March of 2013. This proposal spawned the creation of the Tobacco-Free UVM Steering Committee and its five subcommittees, charged with moving the campus toward becoming a tobacco-free environment.

Aren't there more pressing concerns? Why is the University focused on tobacco use?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the US, killing more than 480,000 Americans annually. The CDC estimates that HALF of all smokers will DIE as a result of their addiction to tobacco. Many more will endure a variety of long-term tobacco-related diseases. And tobacco use affects all of us, not just the smokers. Studies are showing that secondhand smoke causes significant problems for a growing percentage of our population and every year 47,000 people die from secondhand-smoke-related ischemic heart disease. Those with an eye to the environmental impact remind us that cigarette butts are non-biodegradeable and make up 30% or more of the litter lining the streets and waterways of America! (According to Americans for Non-Smokers Rights, 1.69 BILLION pounds of butts wind up as toxic trash each year.) Containing high levels of lethal chemicals, cigarette butts travel through catch basins and storm drains and pollute our lakes and rivers.

These are serious problems that the University of Vermont is no longer willing to ignore. A tobacco-free campus is an effective way to champion our concern for the environment and to respect the life and health of every individual in the UVM community.

Have other colleges and universities gone tobacco-free?

Yes, actually we're behind the curve and riding the wave on this one. Nearly 1,200 college and university campuses in the U.S. have adopted 100% smoke-free policies that eliminate smoking entirely across their campuses and over 800 of those schools are completely tobacco-free. The list of smoke-free schools (PDF) is literally growing each month.

How will this change make a difference?

There are immediate and positive health effects when any individual quits using tobacco. There are also organizational improvements that accompany a change like this: reduced absenteeism, greater productivity on the job and in the classroom, and reduced medical and disability costs, to name a few. We are working hard to promote a culture of health at UVM, and this change fits into that philosophy. We hope that the policy will translate into more members of our campus community quitting tobacco-use (there is a high likelihood of that) and more of the younger members of the community not starting tobacco-use. Both will be significant, health-promoting contributions that benefit everyone. Encouraging a healthy environment also helps us address rising health care costs.

What sort of impact is this initiative likely to have on the environment?

As you know, UVM recently ended the sale of plastic water bottles on campus due to serious concerns about their environmental impact. Many in our community are justly proud of this accomplishment. In light of this, consider some of the devastating health and environmental impacts of tobacco use:

  • Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including an estimated 47,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day (www.cdc.gov/tobacco).
  • Secondhand smoke contains about 70 cancer-causing chemicals. Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are inhaling many of the same cancer-causing substances as smokers. There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke (www.legacyforhealth.org).
  • The most numerous form of litter on the planet is cigarette butts, primarily from filtered cigarettes. Made of plastic, these filters are non-biodegradable and contain dangerous chemicals and carcinogens in amounts sufficient for categorization as toxic waste. They damage our land and waterways, and the substances they contain are dangerous to humans (especially children) and wildlife (www.legacyforhealth.org).

Does the tobacco-free initiative extend to all UVM property?

Yes, the policy encompasses all University-owned property, University-owned vehicles, and all vehicles parked on UVM property.

Does this include property that is leased by UVM?

Yes, although implementation may need to be tailored to individual properties. If UVM owns or leases an entire building, the building and grounds will be tobacco-free, just as they would be if the building were on campus.

Will there be designated smoking areas on campus?

No. The use of tobacco will be prohibited on all UVM property. Other universities have found smoking zones to be ineffective and campuses that are fully tobacco-free report fewer problems with compliance than campuses that include smoking areas.

What about public events like sports and commencement?

All events occurring on UVM-owned property will be covered by the tobacco-free initiative. Signs will be used to communicate the tobacco-free initiative to UVM guests.

Isn't it my right to use tobacco?

Tobacco use is legal among adults in Vermont. However, the University frequently establishes policies to protect the health and safety of the entire campus community. A tobacco-free initiative does not ban tobacco elsewhere, but it does establish that its use will be prohibited on campus.

Are e-cigarettes included in the initiative?

Yes, the UVM initiative prohibits all forms of tobacco and any nicotine delivery device that has not been approved by the FDA for cessation. (The FDA has the authority to regulate e-cigarettes as a "tobacco product" under the Tobacco Control Act). National health agencies remain skeptical of the safety of e-cigarettes due to a lack of scientific data. e-Cigarettes promote and/or perpetuate nicotine addiction, and thus for many people may lead (or lead back) to cigarette use.

Why does this initiative include smokeless tobacco?

  • There is widespread agreement that are no safe forms or levels of tobacco use—the use of tobacco in any form is detrimental to health. A tobacco-free initiative sends a consistent health message by not implying that there is any safe form of tobacco. The initiative promotes and protects the health of all campus members, users and non-users alike.
  • Smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 cancer-causing agents, and the amount of nicotine absorbed from chewing tobacco is 3 to 4 times the amount delivered by cigarettes.
  • Smokeless tobacco can lead to oral cancers, gum disease and increased nicotine addiction (U.S. Surgeon General). Snuff, snus, dipping and chewing tobacco have all been found to increase the risk of cancer, stroke and fatal cardiovascular disease(The International Agency for Research on Cancer).
  • While marketing of cigarettes is on the decline, marketing of smokeless products has risen 400% in the last 20 years (FTC). Marketing of smokeless tobacco products targets youth by associating the product with sports and adventure activities, implying that use is part of a healthy lifestyle.

How will this change affect students and employees who are considering coming to UVM?

Research statistics show that 39% of college students who smoke started doing so AFTER coming to college campuses. Colleges and Universities that have become tobacco-free report no impact of these policies on their ability to recruit students or employees, particularly when the emphasis is on health and wellness, and resources are available to support cessation.

How will the initiative be enforced?

As a nation, we've learned that it takes time to change culture, (many of us still remember smoking in restaurants and on airplanes), and we expect that enforcing this initiative will grow easier over time. The initial emphasis will be on education as the campus and community adapt to the initiative. Plans to address enforcement will be developed in collaboration with campus constituencies.

How can I quit using tobacco? How can I help someone I know quit?

  • Tobacco-free policies have been shown to encourage people to quit. These same policies also support those who are trying to quit.
  • Call 802Quits at 800-QUIT NOW (800-784-8669) or visit 802 Quits. The network provides individual coaching and free or low-cost cessation support, including nicotine replacement therapies and prescription drugs.
  • For more information see the Quit Resources section of this website.

I am interested in helping with tobacco-free efforts at UVM. How can I get involved?

You can contact the Tobacco-Free Steering Committee at tobaccofree@uvm.edu.