VCU considering smoke- and tobacco-free campus policy

If approved, all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, would be prohibited on university property and only allowed in designated outdoor smoking areas.

Overhead photo of VCU compass area.
The proposed smoke-free policy is currently open for comment and consideration among VCU students, faculty and staff. (File photo)

Virginia Commonwealth University is proposing a policy to make the university smoke and tobacco free in an effort to reduce tobacco use, as well as tobacco-related fire hazards and litter, and promote a safe and healthy campus environment.

The proposed policy — details of which are available at tobaccofree.vcu.edu — is currently open for comment and consideration among VCU students, faculty and staff.

If approved, all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, would be prohibited on university property including in university vehicles, and only allowed in designated outdoor smoking areas. The proposed policy applies to students, faculty, staff, contractors and campus visitors.

“VCU is committed to eliminating known health hazards and promoting healthy habits among students, patients, faculty and staff,” said Thomas Briggs, assistant vice president for safety and risk management. “A smoke- and tobacco-free campus policy is a start. Ongoing education and smoking cessation resources will also help our community members make good choices about their health and environment.”

The proposed policy does not apply to smoking cessation products designed to treat tobacco or nicotine dependence. In addition to the policy draft and implementation, VCU’s Office of Safety and Risk Management is working with Massey Cancer Center, VCU Human Resources and The Well — VCU’s student wellness center — to offer smoking cessation programs, educational materials and other resources to help tobacco users quit. More information about these will be available in the coming months.

“By providing smoking cessation resources and eliminating second-hand smoke, we create an environment that makes it easier for smokers to quit,” said Bernard Fuemmeler, Ph.D., associate director for cancer prevention and Gordon D. Ginder Chair in Cancer Research at VCU Massey Cancer Center. “Tobacco use and second-hand smoke cause cancer and heart disease and contribute to the highest rate of disease-related death. As providers and promoters of health, it is important that we align our policies with our values that focus on improving community health and well-being.”

The American Cancer Society and CVS Health Foundation recently awarded a Tobacco-Free Generation Campus Initiative grant to Fuemmeler and his colleague, Elizabeth Do, Ph.D., an associate member member of the Cancer Prevention and Control research program at Massey and instructor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Health Behavior and Policy. The grant supports research into the receptivity of students, faculty and staff on the MCV and Monroe Park campuses to a smoke- and tobacco-free policy in order to help inform its development and implementation. Similar initiatives and support have made tobacco-free campus policies a trend nationwide.

VCU also will host the Virginia Tobacco-Free Higher Education Summit on April 23 with partners from University of Virginia.

VCU Health System’s smoke- and tobacco-free policy has been in effect since 2010.

Feedback received during the open comment period will be considered for inclusion in the final policy draft. Upon the close of the open comment period, a revised policy will be reviewed by University Council and then go before the VCU president’s cabinet for review and approval. If approved, the policy would be implemented beginning July 1.