3Qs: What to know about Northeastern’s smoke-​​free policy

North­eastern announced plans in May to adopt a cam­puswide smoke-​​free policy, which will go into effect on Aug. 12. As the uni­ver­sity pre­pares to go smoke-​​free, we asked Terry Fulmer, dean of the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences and chair of the com­mittee charged last year with exploring this issue, to dis­cuss the policy and what changes will take place leading up to the fall semester. Fulmer chaired the com­mittee along with co-​​chair John Auer­bach, director of the Insti­tute on Urban Health Research and a Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Prac­tice in the Depart­ment of Health Sciences.

New signs are being made and will soon appear throughout campus reminding passers-by of the new smoke-free policy. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

What changes will the Northeastern community see when the campus becomes smoke-free later this summer, and how will the university ensure adherence to this policy?

The Northeastern community will start to see new signage about the policy in the next couple of weeks. That goes for all our campuses, including Seattle and Charlotte, N.C. Ashtrays will also be removed. In addition, we’re educating our incoming students during their summer orientation and holding a series of trainings for faculty and staff. We look forward to helping people understand the parameters of the policy, which we know may take a little time.

In terms of adherence, it’s important to say first that this policy reflects our public health approach to smoking. There are already more than 1,100 campuses in the United States that are smoke-free. We think that, much like when smoking was discontinued in restaurants and bars, people will understand the policy change and that it will be largely self-enforced. Student groups will also help us spread the word and remind people that Northeastern is a smoke-free environment. The handling of the policy will be consistent with when someone repeatedly disobeys other infractions of university policy.

How did feedback from both the Northeastern community and from other universities with similar policies ultimately shape Northeastern's policy?

In our conversations in recent months, we received a wide range of feedback. Ultimately, we felt the majority of the Northeastern community supported this change. We also learned a lot from other campuses about what worked well when they made the transition. During our process, many people inquired about smoking cession resources, which is a central component of the new policy. Northeastern provides a number of support services to students via University Health and Counseling Services and the Northeastern University Student Health Plan. Also, resources are available for benefits-eligible faculty and staff through Human Resources Management.

The University of Michigan, for example, was one of the pioneers on this issue, and we learned that a lot from them about the importance of engaging people to help shape how we want to move forward. We took that very seriously. We also heard from our research that the first year of a smoke-free policy can be difficult at times when people are still getting used to it. We’ve had a great deal of support from all those who worked with us, including staff, faculty, students, and families, and we’ll be working hard right from the start to make sure the policy is clear.

When the committee was convened late last year to study the possibility of going smoke-free, you emphasized the importance of Northeastern's commitment to the health and wellbeing of society. How does this policy reflect that commitment?

The decision to move forward with a smoke-free campus policy closely aligns with the university’s core research themes of health, security, and sustainability. Our primary concern is the health of our community, particularly young people. Lung disease is very much associated with cigarette smoking. So we want to help people quit early or not get started at all. As a nurse, I take this issue very seriously. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 443,000 people die each year from smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke.

The decision for campuses to go smoke-free is a national trend, and Northeastern in its leadership position really wants to improve the health and quality of life for the our university community. We have the opportunity to do that in a smoke-free environment. The Northeastern community can learn more about the initiative at northeastern.edu/smokefree.


  1. If you think I’m walking all the way to Hunt­ington from Snell just for a quick cig study break, you’re all crazy. This could have all been avoided we just used two entrances to snell, a smoke free one and a smokers one.

  2. Yeah this didn’t answer any ques­tions at all so i’m assuming that e-​​cigs will not be banned as nothing is com­busted to pro­duce smoke. If I can’t smoke them out­side, I will go inside. E-​​cigs do not leave an odor or set off fire alarms.

  3. For someone who has asthma, I think this is a bril­liant idea. I am sick of walking behind someone and con­stantly having smoke blown in my face. Also Snell is impos­sible to get into without walking through a wall of smoke. GROSS. Great job NU!

  4. Hi Kevin, thanks for your com­ment. To clarify, Northeastern’s smoke-​​free campus policy does not pro­hibit e-​​cigarettes. How­ever, it’s impor­tant to note that the city of Boston has its own reg­u­la­tions that apply to Northeastern’s campus and pro­hibit the use of e-​​cigarettes in any work­place setting.

  5. You seem pretty eager to quote the CDC’s death toll but I notice that you omitted their quote fur­ther down on the page which states:

    Elim­i­nating smoking in indoor spaces is the only way to fully pro­tect non­smokers from sec­ond­hand smoke expo­sure. Sep­a­rating smokers from non­smokers, cleaning the air, opening win­dows, and ven­ti­lating build­ings does not elim­i­nate sec­ond­hand smoke exposure.3″

    This seems to imply that inci­dental con­tact with cig­a­rette smoke in an out­door envi­ron­ment has a neg­li­gible effect on the health of non-​​smokers. As smoking indoors is already pro­hib­ited in North­eastern build­ings, I am won­dering if this new policy is in fact intended to pro­mote gen­eral health so much as it allows North­eastern to label itself “smoke-​​free” and look good on paper.

    If you look at the death toll, it is abun­dantly clear that the people who are at actual risk of death are, not sur­pris­ingly, the actual smokers.

    Most smokers, if not all of them, are aware of the health risks inherent in the act and are not deterred by them. You are merely saying to your smoking stu­dents “just do it else­where” and washing your hands of it, which to me seems irre­spon­sible. It is my opinion that focusing your efforts pri­marily on pro­viding ces­sa­tion resources to the smokers and being able to say that North­eastern helped “x” number of smokers kick the habit is far more laud­able than merely “we made them smoke a block away.”

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