Fewer butts means less smoking on campuses with tobacco-free policies

(Medical Xpress) -- A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study reveals that fewer cigarette butts are being found on college campuses since new policies banning tobacco use were adopted, suggesting that restricting tobacco use on school property effectively reduces smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.  

The study, published online by the journal Tobacco Control, was conducted as part of the North Carolina Tobacco-Free Colleges Initiative, which includes prevention policies that are in effect at 88 percent of colleges and universities across the state.

Researchers from UNC’s family medicine department compared 19 community college campuses across the state that had adopted one of three types of policies: 100 percent tobacco free; partial bans that limit smoking to designated areas or at least 15 feet from buildings; or no policies regarding smoking outdoors or exposure (state law already bans smoking indoors).

The study found that campuses with 100 percent tobacco-free campus policies had 77 percent less cigarette litter than campuses with no on smoking outdoors.

Dr. Adam Goldstein, professor of family medicine in the School of Medicine and director of the tobacco prevention and evaluation program, was the study’s senior author. Leah Ranney, Ph.D., associate director of the Prevention and Evaluation Program, was a co-author.  Joseph Lee, a doctoral student in health behavior and health education at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, participated in the evaluation of the statewide tobacco-free initiative and was the study’s lead author.  Lee was a survey manager and social research specialist when the study was conducted.

Researchers collected at main entrances to key buildings on the 19 campuses. Results showed that tobacco-free community college campuses had significantly fewer cigarette butts at entrances than those with limited or no outdoor restrictions.

As one of the first studies to evaluate the impact of college campus tobacco-free policies using an objective measure – cigarette litter – the findings show promise for future work on tobacco-free campus policies and their potential effects on student well-being, university operational costs and the environment, the researchers said.

More information: For more information, see tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2011/11/30/tobaccocontrol-2011-050152.abstract

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