Rutgers University announced Wednesday that it will become a smoke-free campus on Jan. 1, 2023, a ban that includes all forms of traditional and nontraditional products, including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, smokeless chewing tobacco and hookah.
The policy applies to everyone on campus: students, staff and all visitors.
The new policy updates the existing one that has prohibited smoking inside and within 30 feet of university-owned and -operated buildings.
The reasons were obvious:
- Smoking is bad for your health — everyone alive knows that;
- The college years are a time when people are most likely to become addicted to smoking — a ban should help in that regard;
- The Rutgers population wanted this — a 2021 survey of Rutgers students and employees found wide support.
“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,” Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway said.
The policy, made in conjunction with research from the Rutgers Center for Tobacco Studies, also aligns with recommendations made by the University Senate.
The question: Why wait until the start of the new year — as opposed to the start of the school year — to implement the new policy?
A Rutgers spokesperson said the date was set “to provide time for an education campaign to let students and employees know about the new policy and the resources available to them to quit smoking, if they choose.”
Kevin Schroth, associate professor at the Rutgers Center for Tobacco Studies and the Rutgers School of Public Health, said the policy has the potential for great impact.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Along with the policy change, the university will highlight information and access to cessation counseling services, including the Rutgers Tobacco Dependence Program, the NJ Quit Line and NJ Tobacco Quit Services, to encourage and help students and employees to quit tobacco use.
A 2021 survey of Rutgers students and employees by the Center for Tobacco Studies found wide support for a tobacco-free campus. Around three-quarters of all respondents supported the new proposed policy, and nine out of 10 agreed that universities have a responsibility to adopt policies that ensure people have smoke-free and vapor-free air to breathe. Additionally, three out of four smokers and eight out of 10 e-cigarette users who responded indicated that they plan to quit.
Rutgers joins thousands of colleges and universities including eight other Big Ten universities that do not allow smoking, e-cigarette use, smokeless tobacco use or other tobacco products to be used on campus. Four additional Big Ten schools have policies that do not allow outdoor smoking.