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Why Go Tobacco Free?

This question has a three-word answer: Health – Employment – Budgets.


Tobacco use is still THE leading cause of preventable death worldwide.   Finland is the first country to set a national goal to end all consumption of tobacco products.  Going TobaccoFree is thus a global public health goal, not limited to college campuses.

At current average tobacco use rates, it is estimated that nearly 10% of American college students will die prematurely from tobacco.

Legal tobacco use begins at age 18.  The human brain is at its most addictable from age 13-25.  Therefore, 18-24 year olds are a target demographic for tobacco companies that desire lifelong customers. This includes the traditional college student demographic.

Health promotion efforts must therefore be directed to this demographic, to encourage critical thinking about the true costs of a tobacco habit.  In fall 2012, the TobaccoFreeCampus movement became a national initiative.  For more information, see •

Another health concern is the detritus left behind by tobacco use. Billions of cigarette butts are added to our environment each year and each persists for years.  The toxins in a single cigarette butt will kill a fish in 96 hours.  With our campus' proximity to waterways, this is a special concern.  Recent research supports the classification of cigarette butts as "hazardous waste".

TFC policies are not just about promoting human health; they also prepare students to compete in the job markets of the future. The plain fact is that people who use any form of tobacco increasingly risk their employability.



Here follow some workplace realities presented in October 2012 by a Vice President from United Healthcare, an American health insurance company ranked in the top 25 of the Fortune 500 list.

On average, compared to nonsmokers:

- Smokers take more breaks, and longer breaks.

- Smokers have more carbon monoxide in their bloodstream, more eye irritation, and less attentiveness on the job.

- Smokers take up to 8 more sick days per year.

- Smokers have 6 more visits to the doctor each year.

- Smokers have about twice as many hospital admissions.

- Smokers have about 25% longer hospital stays.

- Smokers make $1,623 more per year in medical claims to health insurers (but other studies put this differential at $3,000-$4,000).

- Smokers make 12 times more Worker’s Comp claims per year.

Tobacco users also account for the majority of early retirements, which has been argued places an "extra" drain on pension plans, Medicare, and Social Security.

Increasingly, tobacco users who get health insurance through an employer are paying a "tobacco surcharge" on top of their regular premiums; at PepsiCo Inc, it's currently an additional $600 per year.

Because of the past, current and projected strength of the healthcare sector in hiring, increasing numbers of students hope for employment in hospitals or clinics.  The healthcare employment sector is, at a minimum, TobaccoFree; and many employers are now NicotineFree (about 6,000 nationwide).  A tobacco habit begun or solidified in college could very well render a young person ineligible for employment at many healthcare locations.

NicotineFree hiring practices are on the rise not just in healthcare organizations but also include Dell Computers, Turner Broadcast Company, Union Pacific Railroad and Scott’s Miracle Gro.  This is because employees who use tobacco cost 18% more to employ than do non-users and, for most businesses, employees are the biggest expense. Businesses can't afford to ignore that differential any longer.

College campuses prepare the employees of tomorrow. We provide instruction, advising, counseling, résumé editing, mock interviews, internships, service learning, and networking. The TFC Committee argues that helping students avoid or quit a habit that negatively impacts their employability in a changing world is the right thing to do.



In these tough times, governments, businesses, campuses, families and individuals are searching for the best ways to economize in the short and long term.

As outlined above, it is estimated that a tobacco using employee costs 18% more than a non-using employee, due to health-related costs and lower productivity.  However, budgetary concerns go even farther.

The same VP from the insurance company provided more bottom-line arguments for going TobaccoFree:

-Lower fire insurance premiums (est. 12%)

-Lower custodial service costs (est. 7%)

-Lower RISES in the cost of health insurance premiums (after Scott’s Miracle Gro went NicotineFree, they reported that employee health insurance premiums rose at only half the pace of the national average).


TFC policies are fairly recent; do they work?

Selected links to the peer-reviewed medical literature:

Indiana U, SFC since 2008, over 100,000 students

Oklahoma State U, TFC since 2008, about 25,000 students

U of Kentucky, TFC since 2009, about 28,000 students, record enrollment in 2012, houses Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy despite being nation's top tobacco producing state



For a regularly updated list of TFC campuses:

Visit • (go to "View Our SmokeFree Lists" and scroll down to item 22)




by Linn, Molly M last modified Mar 19, 2013 03:28 PM