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Frequently Asked Questions

Why should the University of California adopt a 100% smoke-free campus policy?

Smoke-free campus policies protect the health and safety of students, faculty, staff, and visitors by eliminating secondhand smoke on campus. Everyone will breathe easier, and this will assure equal access for individuals most vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke exposure, such as those with asthma and allergies. Additionally, by adopting a 100% smoke-free policy, the University of California will:

  • Promote clean air, a healthy environment, and healthy behavior choices
  • Save money and staff time spent cleaning cigarette litter by eliminating butts and other tobacco waste on campus
  • Prepare students for smoke-free work environments (e.g., hospitals, K-12 schools, etc.)
  • Prevent students from initiating smoking
  • Encourage tobacco users to quit or decrease use
  • Support those who have already quit using tobacco

As noted in President Yudof's letter to the Chancellors, the University of California is a "national leader in healthcare and environmental practices, and the University of California is ready to demonstrate leadership in reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke by creating a smoke-free environment on all of our campuses".

What are the health consequences of secondhand smoke?

Exposure to secondhand smoke is known to cause death and disease and is the third leading cause of preventable death in this country, killing over 50,000 non-smokers each year. The Surgeon General of the United States has concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke and any exposure to tobacco smoke – even an occasional cigarette or exposure to secondhand smoke – is harmful. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found secondhand tobacco smoke to be a risk to public health, and has classified secondhand smoke as a group A carcinogen, the most dangerous class of carcinogen. Furthermore, the California Air Resources Board has categorized secondhand smoke as a toxic air contaminant.

What does Tobacco and Smoke-Free mean? What areas of campus will the smoke and tobacco-free policy cover?

The new Smoke and Tobacco-Free campus policy applies to all university spaces indoor and outdoor, including parking lots and private residential space. The new policy applies to all University facilities, whether owned or leased. California state law already prohibits smoking in all indoor areas within 20 feet of public buildings (including colleges and universities), and in all state-owned vehicles.

Will a 100% smoke-free campus policy cause conflict between the University of California and its employees?

The adoption of a 100% smoke-free policy promotes the health and well-being of everyone on campus, including employees. Currently, individuals who work in outdoor areas are not provided with the same level of protection to secondhand smoke as those working indoors. A 100% smoke-free policy will provide equal protection to everyone on campus. Additionally, the proposed policy may support those smokers who would like to quit as well as those individuals who have already quit smoking.

Is a Smoke and Tobacco-Free Policy a violation of civil and Constitutional rights?

No. There is no Constitutional right to smoke or use tobacco. Tobacco users are not a category protected under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, nor is tobacco use a protected liberty right under the Due Process clause of the Constitution.

Why not just create designated smoking areas instead of going completely smoke-free?

Designated smoking areas have many disadvantages. A study from Stanford University found that in outdoor designated areas with multiple smokers, levels of toxic air contaminants from secondhand smoke may be the same or higher than indoors, therefore, creating a hazardous environment to individuals standing in or around these areas. Additionally, secondhand smoke is proven to travel outside of designated areas; distance depends on wind strength and direction. Designated areas have also been found to encourage tobacco use by creating a social environment for daily and non-daily tobacco users. By increasing the number of individuals smoking in one area, students are more likely to believe that more people smoke than actually do. This misperception affects the norm of smoking on campus and may also contribute to increased tobacco use. Finally, designated areas are often heavily littered and smell of toxic tobacco waste. Unless regularly cleaned and maintained, these areas are unhealthy, smelly, and an eyesore.

The majority of campuses that designate smoking areas later strengthen their policies to 100% smoke-free or 100% tobacco-free. Motivation for doing so includes: increased litter in designated areas, excessive secondhand smoke on campus, difficulties understanding where individuals can and cannot smoke, and expenses associated with setting up and maintaining designated areas. To date, over 600 colleges throughout the United States have successfully adopted 100% smoke-free policies.

Where can I smoke?

The new policy will prohibit the use of all tobacco products in all university spaces indoor and outdoor, including parking lots and private residential space. View a map which includes the boundaries of the universityThe policy does not include any area outside of these boundaries.

Is there cessation support available for faculty, staff or students?

Yes. See the Resources to Quit tab for detailed information.

If I choose to continue to smoke or use tobacco and do not have enough time to step off campus to smoke what am I supposed to do?

The University is aware that nicotine is a highly addictive drug and simply waiting until a long break between classes, lunch-time or after work will be difficult for some. Some may decide to use nicotine replacement products such as gum or lozenges for times that are inconvenient to smoke.

The Smoke and Tobacco-Free policy will require that students, faculty and staff step off campus to smoke. What about the personal safety of these individuals, especially in the early morning or evening when it is dark?

The UC encourages that all individuals consider their safety while on or off campus. Medications such as the nicotine patch, gum, lozenge, nasal spray or inhaler are options that can be considered to meet nicotine needs without leaving campus and putting yourself at any risk.

What about the use of medical marijuana?

Possession of a valid medical marijuana card does not permit possession or use of marijuana in campus residential facilities (e.g. apartments and residence halls) or on University property. The University, under Title IV, Part A – Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act does not permit possession or use of marijuana on campus.

Read more about medical marijuana.

Why are electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) not permitted?

E-cigarettes have become increasingly popular, though much about the risks associated with them is unknown. Designed in size, shape, and color to resemble the real thing, e-cigarettes are actually small, battery-powered vaporizers. The act of inhaling triggers a sensor that causes a tiny heating element to heat up the nicotine cartridge inside, turning the nicotine into an odorless vapor. E-cigarettes create no second-hand smoke, which has added to their popularity. In addition to the different flavors, cartridges come in varying levels of nicotine and some come without nicotine.

Even though many users state that e-cigarettes have helped them reduce or quit smoking traditional cigarettes and helped to reduce their nicotine addiction, there is currently little evidence that e-cigarettes can help you quit smoking.

E-cigarettes are not an FDA approved "quit smoking" aid. If the e-cigarette manufacturers wanted to make this claim, they would have to adhere to specific FDA standards. They have yet to apply for such status. Aside from being addictive, nicotine itself is toxic to humans. The nicotine vapor in e-cigarettes may send a more concentrated dose of nicotine into e-cigarette "smokers” bodies. Choosing a lower- e-cigarette isn't necessarily a reliable solution for decreasing nicotine intake. FDA tests found that similarly labeled e-cigarette cartridges released widely varying levels of nicotine per puff and that even cartridges labeled as nicotine-free still contained nicotine. Another concern is that e-cigarettes contain toxic contaminants in the fluid and/or vapor. The short-term and long-term consequences of inhaling this chemical have yet to be determined.

Are clove cigarettes (Bidis or Kreteks) permitted?

No. The use of clove cigarettes is prohibited by the Smoke and Tobacco-free Campus policy. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that smoking clove cigarettes is associated with an increased risk for lung damage. See CDC information on clove cigarettes.

Hookah smoking is often tobacco-free, so why does the new policy prohibit it?

Hookah pipes (also known as water pipes, shisha) have a reputation for being the lesser of evils when it comes to smoking options, and from certain perspectives, this is true. Smoking a hookah doesn't have to mean smoking tobacco or taking in nicotine, which are common substances associated with smoking. But hookah smoking does have its own dangers — combusted charcoal — which carries health risks even when non-tobacco shisha is used.

When charcoal is burned to create the hookah effect, it releases chemicals in the process, namely carbon monoxide (CO) and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). In addition to inhaling byproducts of the shisha, waterpipe smokers also inhale fairly large quantities of these combustion-related toxins — a hidden health risk associated with hookah smoking, even for non-tobacco shisha.

One recent study found that in a typical hookah smoking session, participants inhaled more carbon monoxide than someone who smokes a pack or more a day of conventional cigarettes. Some studies have shown that a person inhales 100-200 times more smoke (by volume) during a typical one hour hookah smoking session than when smoking one cigarette – because the hookah smoke is cooled by water, it can be inhaled more deeply and held for a longer length of time. While hookah tobacco (or non-tobacco shisha) can be bought with very trace amounts of nicotine, or even be tobacco-free, most hookah devices are solely designed for charcoal burning to be the mechanism of inhalation. Tobacco tends to burn more slowly than many of the fruit and molasses contents in non-tobacco shishas. And so, while it may be true that you aren't inhaling tobacco smoke, the sustained burning of the charcoal carries the risk of extended exposure to these chemicals. Even at low levels of exposure, both CO and PAH have corrosive and carcinogenic properties, just like most combustion by-products.

Does the Smoke and Tobacco-Free campus policy prohibit the use of chewing tobacco on campus?

Yes. The use of all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco products like chewing tobacco and snuff, is prohibited on all university property or in university vehicles.

What about enforcement? How will this policy be supported by enforcement? How successful is enforcement at other colleges?

We are an institution of higher education and education will be key to implementing this policy. We will make people aware of the tobacco and smoke-free environment through electronic messaging, signage and marketing. An explanation of the new policy will be communicated to prospective and enrolling students and an explanation of the smoke-free campus will be included in the orientation program for new employees and in materials distributed to all outside groups that use university facilities.

Many colleges and universities find that they do not need to enforce the policy if they encourage compliance through educational campaigns. If education and peer enforcement does not result in increased compliance, the University does have the authority to issue citations to individuals violating the smoke-free policy. Under state law, public colleges and universities can determine if they want to fine violators and, if so, the amount of the fine; not to exceed $100. Collected funds can be allocated to include, but not limited to, the designated enforcement agency, education and promotion of the policy, and tobacco cessation treatment options.

Does the policy apply to visitors to campus?

Yes. Organizers and attendees at public events, such as conferences, meetings, public lectures, social events, cultural events, and sporting events using university facilities are required to abide by the Smoke and Tobacco-Free campus policy. Organizers of such events are responsible for communicating the policy to attendees.

How will a 100% smoke-free campus policy impact enrollment?

There is no association between the adoption of a 100% smoke-free campus policy and a decrease in student enrollment. In fact, many colleges and universities promote a healthy and smoke-free campus environment as a way of increasing enrollment.

What about the University neighbors?

The UC asks that our students, faculty and staff help maintain a positive relationship with our neighbors that border the campus. We encourage you to respect others' property by not littering and not congregating in areas to smoke and thus creating a cloud that others must walk through. We will be reaching out to our neighbors and informing them of the upcoming policy and encouraging open communication if a problem arises.

What is the level of satisfaction at other colleges and universities in California that have adopted a 100% smoke-free campus policy?

An increased number of colleges and universities in California are adopting 100% smoke-free campus policies. The majority of the colleges with 100% smoke-free policies previously had designated area policies that were ineffective. Furthermore, many colleges with current designated areas are working on the adoption of a 100% smoke-free or tobacco-free policy. Strong tobacco use campus policies have found great success throughout California. For example, in San Diego County, San Diego Mesa College went 100% smoke-free in 2007. Shortly thereafter, the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, also in San Diego County, went 100% tobacco-free after seeing the success of the Mesa College policy. Following the trend in the County, Mira Costa College recently adopted a 100% tobacco-free policy followed by Palomar College which updated their policy from designated smoking areas. The majority of colleges who have adopted 100% smoke-free policies have done so at the request of their students and with leadership from the Associated Student Government.