The 2010 Surgeon General’s Report concludes there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. “Any exposure to tobacco smoke—even an occasional cigarette or exposure to secondhand smoke—is harmful.” A report from the American College Health Association Guidelines encourages all universities and colleges to achieve and maintain an in- and outdoor tobacco-free environment.

Cigarette use has long been known to be a primary cause of lung cancer, and has also been linked to an increase risk of cancers of the mouth, lips, nasal cavity and sinuses, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, uterus, cervix, colon/rectum, ovary, and myeloid leukemia. (American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures, 2013)

Moreover, the list of other diseases attributed to or aggravated by tobacco use continues to grow as the body of research into the health impacts of tobacco use expands. The list of related conditions now includes but is not limited to oral cancer, heart disease, emphysema, Buerger’s disease, cataracts, cervical cancer, kidney and pancreatic cancer, pneumonia, periodontitis and stomach cancer.

In addition to the health and human toll of tobacco use, there is also a financial burden to the state of Minnesota including:

  • $2.06 billion annual healthcare costs directly caused from smoking tobacco use
  • $465 million State Medicaid expenditures due to tobacco use
  • $1.27 billion smoking-causes productivity losses in the state of Minnesota
  • $609 per residential household in state and federal tax expenditures

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 and initiatives:

  • Decrease smoking initiation among young adults
  • Decrease progression to established smoking
  • Increase the probability of young adult smoking cessation
  • Promote a tobacco free norm which can influence adult smoking behavior
  • Lead 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 use is allowed

Other benefits of a tobacco-free policy include a reduction in fire hazards and cleaner grounds and air that support our university sustainability efforts.