Tobacco use is the leading cause of premature and preventable death, responsible for 480,000 deaths a year in the United States. As highlighted in the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, cigarette smoking alone is responsible for more deaths than HIV/AIDS, alcohol, motor vehicle crashes, homicide, suicide, illegal drugs and fires – COMBINED. And these statistics do not include the numerous, serious health problems, financial costs, and lost productivity associated with tobacco use.

Moreover, tobacco addiction begins almost exclusively among youth and young adults. In fact, of the roughly 20 million college and university students in the United States, more than 1 million are projected to die prematurely from cigarette smoking.  The 2012 Surgeon General’s Report shows that 99% of smokers begin smoking and using other forms of tobacco by age 26, making college and university campuses a critical target for tobacco use prevention and cessation efforts.

As a response, and to protect our youth and young adults against this epidemic, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) created the Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative (TFCCI) to promote and support the adoption and implementation of tobacco-free policies at universities, colleges, and other institutions of higher learning across the United States. The Initiative began with discussions and close collaborations with academic leaders, public health advocates, students, researchers, and other concerned citizens across the U.S. to accelerate the elimination of tobacco use on college campuses everywhere.

Since 2012, this movement of creating tobacco-free colleges and universities has grown rapidly and many organizations such as the Truth Initiative and the American Cancer Society have become leaders by creating targeted programs to support this effort. In addition, the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation continues to track the growth in smoke- and tobacco-free campuses, while academic institutions such as the University of Kentucky have provided key expertise and strategic leadership in this important endeavor. These and many other institutions have worked alongside state and local partners to contribute to the incredible growth in the number of smoke- and tobacco-free campuses nationally.

But we still have a long way to go! More than half of the 4,500 colleges and universities in the U.S. have not yet adopted and implemented 100% smoke- and tobacco-free policies for their campuses. TFCCI and its many national, state and local partners will continue to support the spread of these polices nationwide. We welcome your support and participation!