The National Center for College Health and Safety, part of EDC’s Health and Human Development Programs (HHD), released a study showing that campuses with smoking bans in their residence halls don’t suffer any major financial consequences for their no-smoking policies. In fact, the study showed an improvement in overall satisfaction by those who live and work on campuses following the move to ban smoking in dormitories.
The HHD study, called “Impact of Smoke-Free Residence Hall Policies: The Views of Administrators at Three State Universities,” was funded by the American Legacy Foundation.
Most of the data used in the study was collected during interviews from January to July 2004 at three universities with at least 2,000 students living on campus. Only universities that had implemented smoke-free policies in their residence halls during fall 2001 or earlier were eligible to participate.
Administrators interviewed for the study reported that smoke-free policies at residence halls did not lead to student and alumni resistance, increased personnel workload, costly enforcement, or revenue loss. Students have adapted easily to the policies, resulting in few policy violations, the study reported.
Demand for student housing remained steady for the participating schools, and administrative processes and costs associated with matching roommates and assigning RAs to residence halls have not changed. Alumni office staff reported that there have been no alumni complaints about the policy, and that alumni giving has not changed.
“This study demonstrates that administrator fears about negative financial impacts from smoke-free policies are unfounded,” said Laura Gomberg Towvim, HHD project director of the study. “On the contrary, the smoke-free policies have the potential to greatly benefit both the health and well-being of students and the University’s bottom line. Administrators should be encouraged to implement smoke-free residence hall policies,” she said.
The three universities chosen to participate in the study were Montana State University at Bozeman, The Ohio State University in Columbus, and the University of Rhode Island in Kingston. The major findings of the study include the following:
- The implementation of smoke-free policies at residence halls imposed little economic burden on the study universities.
- Positive impacts in several key areas include decreased damage to residence hall buildings, fewer fire alarms, fewer incidents of student roommate conflicts, improved student retention, decreased attrition, and improved policy enforcement.
- Campus personnel did not report student and alumni resistance, changes in personnel workloads, or an increased financial burden.
- Administrators reported that increased direct costs, such as the purchase of cigarette receptacles, were outweighed by the benefits of the policy change.
No-smoking policies for dormitories, including for individual rooms, are starting to take hold on campuses across the U.S. By 1999, 27 percent of four-year residential colleges had smoking bans. In the last few years, however, there has been a rapid increase in the number of colleges and universities implementing no-smoking restrictions in dormitories.
Putting campus policies in place to prevent smoking in dorms can have an impact on whether or not college students start or continue smoking. Research shows that almost 40 percent of college smokers either began smoking or became regular smokers after starting college.
“College is a time when students establish a host of lifelong habits,” Gomberg Towvim said. “Having smoke-free campus buildings—including residence halls—can help decrease the chances of occasional smokers becoming regular smokers and launching into a lifetime of addiction,” she said.
Despite these positive developments, millions of college students are still living in campus residence halls where they are exposed to secondhand smoke.
Administrators interviewed noted some negative consequences and costs related to the increase in outdoor smoking, including an increase in cigarette butt litter outside buildings, vandalism near building entries, and cleanup costs. The installation of cigarette receptacles outside buildings and the purchase of cleanup supplies meant increased costs.
“Despite some initial up-front costs associated with implementing a ban, increased student, staff, parent, and alumni satisfaction promise positive long-term economic impacts by increasing the appeal of the university,” Gomberg Towvim said.
This story originally appeared on the Web site of EDC’s Health and Human Development Programs
Originally published on January 1, 2005