"Clean air and tobacco-free policies are well received, protect people with asthma, and are feasible to implement," says Joseph Lee. "Protecting students, faculty, and staff from exposure to secondhand smoke is a win-win situation for colleges and universities." (Credit: Elvert Barnes/Flickr)

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‘Smoke-free’ isn’t hurting college enrollments

Colleges and universities that make their campuses smoke-free see no drop in applications or enrollment.

A new study that examines data from 58 community colleges and 36 independent and private colleges and universities in North Carolina from 2001-2010, is the first to directly address the impact of such policies on enrollment and application numbers.

Researchers looked at 15 different types of enrollment statistics, including total applications, transfers, and out of state enrollment. Across all 15 types of enrollment statistics, there were no significant differences in applications and enrollment before and after tobacco-free policy implementation or between campuses with tobacco-free policies and those without.

100% tobacco free

“While some campus administrators have worried about changes in enrollment after adopting tobacco-free campus policies, the evidence suggests that a more healthful campus is just as desirable to students,” says lead author Joseph Lee, a researcher with the Tobacco Prevention and Evaluation Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Family Medicine.

In 2011, the American College Health Association adopted a no-tobacco use policy that “encourages colleges and universities to be diligent in their efforts to achieve a 100 percent indoor and outdoor campus-wide tobacco-free environment,” according to the ACHA website. As of October 2014, approximately 976 college campuses in the US have adopted tobacco-free policies.

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Students in North Carolina have historically had high levels of exposure to secondhand smoke. Higher education institutions across North Carolina have adopted strong policies limiting tobacco use on campus, and many community colleges, as well as private colleges, have adopted 100 percent tobacco free university policies.

The study, published in the Journal of American College Health, concludes that campus administrators can consider 100 percent tobacco-free policies as part of comprehensive health promotion efforts without fear of negative financial or reputational implications due to decreased student applications or enrollment.

“Our findings fit with national evidence that clean air and tobacco-free policies are well received, protect people with asthma, and are feasible to implement,” Lee says. “Protecting students, faculty, and staff from exposure to secondhand smoke is a win-win situation for colleges and universities,” Lee concludes.

Source: UNC Chapel Hill

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