We, the students, faculty and staff of Northwestern University, care about our health and the health of those around us. Therefore, we support a tobacco-free policy for our campus that would do the following:
1. Prohibit tobacco use on all college property, including residence halls.
2. Prohibit the free distribution of tobacco products on campus, including affiliated fraternities and sororities.
3. Promote tobacco treatment services and products through university health services.
Tobacco use remains the number one preventable cause of death and disability in the U.S., in Illinois and in Chicago/Evanston. Tobacco kill more than AIDS, crack, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, car accidents, fire, murder and suicide combined. The 2010 Surgeon General’s report concludes there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. In addition, the American Cancer Health Association Guidelines now advocate for a campus-wide tobacco-free environment. There are currently 766 college campuses across the United States that are 100% tobacco free. Northwestern, being a top American university, should implement a tobacco-free campus policy. In doing so, Northwestern would show the value it places on the health of their students, faculty and staff.
A tobacco-free campus would also provide a financial benefit to the University, as decreased productivity and health care expenditures from tobacco related illness can be very costly. In Illinois, each year smoking causes more than 16,600 deaths, has health care costs of nearly $4.8 billion and $7.9 billion in smoking caused productivity losses. While the retail price of a pack of cigarettes in Illinois is on average $6.07, the combined medical costs and productivity losses attributable to each pack of cigarettes sold approximately add up to $21.99 per pack of cigarettes.
In Illinois, 21% of adults are smokers. Almost 70% of smokers want to quit, and more than half have tried to quit. One of the most successful ways to help smokers quit is working in a tobacco-free environment. Dell Computer in Austin, Texas is a successful example where a tobacco-free workplace has helped to reduce the tobacco use rates of its employees. Dell had a 13% smoking rate among its employees prior to implementing a tobacco-free campus. After its implementation, and combined with offering of cessation services, this rate fell to 3%.
Tobacco-free policies can have a positive impact in reducing adverse impacts from tobacco use. According to recent research, the following benefits have been attributed to the implementation of tobacco-free policies:
- Decreased smoking initiation among young adults
- Decreased progression in established smokers
- Increased probability of young adults smoking cessation
- Promotes a tobacco-free norm which can influence adult smoking behavior
- Leads to less smoking among adults in the workplace
- Employees who work in workplaces with smoke or tobacco-free policies are almost twice as likely to stop using tobacco as those who work where tobacco is allowed