Northeastern’s Smoke-free Policy Evaluation

Recently, the efforts for colleges and universities to become tobacco and smoke-free has gained significant strength. The movement for tobacco and smoke-free campuses is over 1,100 strong among institutions of higher education in the US. This evaluation seeks to follow Northeastern’s transition into an urban smoke-free campus.


      • The Undergraduate Health Sciences Research Coalition recently finished five weeks of recording and mapping cigarette butts on Northeastern’s campus for the third year in a row. This data will be analyzed and compared with previous years’ data.
      • The Undergraduate Health Sciences Research Coalition tabled in Curry Student Center for The Great American Smokeout on November 19, 2015. The students gave away stress balls, gum, smoking cessation materials and had attendees sign pledges to either quit or never start smoking (see below image).


Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the United States. In this context that means tobacco alone is responsible for more deaths than HIV/AIDS, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined. Cigarette smoking results in 1 in 5 deaths a year in the United States and according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) approximately 443,000 people die each year not only from smoking but also from exposure to second-hand smoke. In colleges across the nation the rates of students smoking have been declining but are now stalled at about 25%. Research shows that if an individual does not start to smoke before the age of 22 it is unlikely that he/she will ever smoke. Recently a national trend for campuses to go smoke-free has emerged.  More than 1.200 colleges and universities have adopted smoke-free policies.  However, there has been surprisingly little research on the efficacy of such policies.

At Northeastern Terry Fulmer, Dean of the Bouvé College of Health Sciences established a smoke-free committee to explore the possibility of implementing a smoke-free campus.  Committee members solicited input and recommendations from members of the university community through a series of surveys, meetings, and town hall forums.   Following the deliberations of the committee Northeastern announced its decision to become a smoke-free campus. The smoke-free policy went into effect on all of Northeastern’s campuses and grounds on Monday, August 12 2013.

Currently, the policy is active and applies to all persons on campus including students, faculty, staff, volunteers, vendors, and visitors. Smoking is now prohibited anywhere on University property and in buildings and facilities on campuses including parking lots, green spaces, and pedestrian walkways. Students of Northeastern University are offered free cessation services through University Health and Counseling Services’ evidence-based program Ready to Quit! Similarly, the university offers benefits-eligible faculty and staff access to a number of cessation resources through Human Resources Management. Since the implementation of the smoke-free policy on campus there are noticeable anecdotal changes to smoking behaviors. Many of the locations on campus with a reputation for being an unofficial smoking area now appear to be clear of second-hand smoke, providing more courtesy to those walking throughout campus. Despite the positive changes in smoking culture at Northeastern University there is a need for more information about the impact of the new policy on knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of members of the University community

The Smoke-free Policy Evaluation seeks to understand the University’s progression into a smoke-free campus. By taking a closer look at the implementation of the smoke-free policy we, as an institution, will be better informed about the program’s progress, improvements, and potential needs. An evaluation into the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of those affected by the policy will provide invaluable insight into implementation outcomes. Through use of field research techniques a team of  researchers, students, and dedicated volunteers are conducting an evaluation of the smoke-free policy and its impact on campus.  The information gathered through this evaluation will be used to develop future action steps in an effort to continue Northeastern’s commitment to the health and well-being of society.

Associate IUHRP Staff

John Auerbach, MBA

John Auerbach, MBA

Patricia Case, MPH, ScD

Patricia Case, MPH, ScD

Research Associate Professor