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Tobacco Free Penn State

After careful evaluation and discussion by a task force of Penn State community members, and feedback from students, faculty, staff, and administrators, an updated policy was approved on Aug. 6, 2018, making Penn State a tobacco-free University. Penn State is the 11th Big Ten school to implement a smoke-free policy. Penn State is committed to the health and well-being of its students, employees, and visitors. We encourage healthy lifestyles and minimizing exposure to tobacco products on Penn State campuses to support this mission. The policy is being implemented in an effort to enhance the health of the entire Penn State community.

History of Smoke-Free Initiatives at Penn State

Smoke-free initiatives have been supported more and more nationwide. An increased discussion among the Penn State community including student-led awareness efforts indicated a need to evaluate our own policies. President Barron appointed a task force in January 2017 to examine the issue, however conversations about tobacco usage date back as far as 1982, when a University Health Promotion Strategic Study Group was appointed by President Bryce Jordan to decide whether Penn State should launch a health promotion program for employees. Through this study group, a smoking policy task force was appointed. In 1989, the task force revised the University smoking policy, AD32. The new policy prohibited smoking in University buildings with the exception of personal offices, a limited number of designated locations and living areas. The policy eliminated cigarette vending machines and required “No Smoking” signs in every building on campus. Research on the effects of second-hand smoke emerged around the same time, and Penn State took its initial steps to becoming a healthier campus for both employees and students.

In 2003, the University banned smoking in all residential living spaces. This same year, Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant (OPP) discussed the possibility of turning University Park into a smoke-free campus. This idea was discussed as one way to reduce cigarette-related litter. On March 31, 2000, USG held a student referendum to gauge student interest in the possibility of University Park becoming a smoke-free campus. With 3,224 responses, 54 percent of respondents voted against changing the policy. Alternative measures were taken by OPP to reduce the cigarette-related trash on campus, such as purchasing sweep machines and installing new cigarette receptacles.

In 2007, campus officials consider again whether or not to ban smoking on the University Park campus. The discussion focused on two issues: changing the policy to specify the distance from buildings where individuals could smoke or eliminate smoking on campuses all together. A Penn State Pulse Survey conducted in 2007 revealed that 64.9 percent of 1,574 students who participated in the survey supported a campus-wide ban on smoking.

In October 2015, the 10th assembly of the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) discussed a smoke-free campus policy. Students expressed concerns that smoking frequently occurred in locations either banned by policy, or in high traffic areas. UPUA passed a resolution supporting an official stance that University Park become a smoke-free campus.

In October 2016, the University Faculty Senate approved a motion recommending the University form a task force to look into options for implementing a policy to make Penn State smoke-free.

The 11th Assembly of UPUA in November 2016 received a grant to explore smoke-free initiatives as part of the CVS Health Foundation/American Cancer Society Tobacco-Free Generation Campus Initiative (TGFCI). Penn State was one of 20 colleges and universities to receive a grant to support student-led initiatives. UPUA conducted research showing that, at the time, nine of 14 Big Ten institutions were already tobacco-free or smoke-free.

In January 2017, President Barron appointed a Smoke-Free/Tobacco-Free University Task Force comprised of 17 individuals representing many areas of the University. The task force was charged with identifying issues and challenges to becoming a tobacco-free or smoke-free University. Throughout the course of seven months, the task force met with key stakeholders to gather information and insight into the impact of a new policy implementation on the campus community. On October 2, 2017 the task force shared its findings and recommendations with President Barron for his review and consideration, as well as with the University Faculty Senate, Staff Advisory Council and student body governments, including the University Park Undergraduate Association, Graduate and Professional Student Association and Council of Commonwealth Student Governments. Some of the recommendations were formally adopted on Aug. 6, 2018.