When did Montana State become tobacco-free?

The policy went into effect on August 1, 2012.

Why is MSU tobacco-free?

  • The university seeks to provide a clean and healthy environment for all students, employees and visitors. A tobacco-free campus policy will:
    • Protect people from unwanted and involuntary exposure to tobacco and passive smoke;
    • Promote cessation and create a supporting environment for those who are trying to quit tobacco;
    • Create a cleaner living, learning and working environment.
  • According to the CDC, tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., killing an estimated 443,000 Americans annually. Closer to home, 1,400 Montanans are estimated to die each year from smoking; many others die from exposure to secondhand smoke and smokeless tobacco. The CDC estimates that between one third and one half of all smokers will die from their addiction to tobacco.
  • Multiple studies affirm that there are no safe levels of exposure to secondhand smoke, including outdoor smoke.
  • Campus is the number one location where MSU students are exposed to secondhand smoke:
    • 73% of MSU students report being exposed to smoke on campus;
    • 21% of MSU students report immediate health problems, such as asthma attacks, headaches, eye irritation, allergic reactions and other health effects;
    • Pregnant women, children, people with bronchitis, respiratory problems, asthma, heart conditions and cancer are especially susceptible to passive smoke.

What process was involved in making this decision?

  • The process began in 2008 with wide-scale discussions about tobacco prevention and cessation, including consideration of the approximately 270 campuses around the country with tobacco-free policies. Numerous public forums and presentations were made during this time.
  • MSU, along with seven other campuses in Montana have been involved in tobacco prevention and policy efforts as part of a state-level coalition, which started in 2005.
  • In the Fall of 2010, ASMSU put forth a referendum for a full student vote in March 2011: 61% of students voted in favor of a tobacco-free campus.
  • This was followed by a poll of all MSU employees in April 2011: 72% voted in support of the students’ referendum.
  • A policy was drafted and posted for public comment in July 2011.
  • In October 2011, the University Council voted unanimously in favor of the tobacco-free policy, to go into effect August 2012.

Why does this include smokeless tobacco?

  • Smokeless tobacco use at MSU is nearly four times the national average. A tobacco-free policy sends a consistent health message by not implying that one form of tobacco is safe. There are no safe forms or levels of tobacco use. The policy promotes and protects the health of all campus members, users and non-users alike.
    • Smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 cancer-causing agents, and the amount of nicotine absorbed from spit tobacco is 3 to 4 times the amount delivered by cigarettes.
    • Smokeless tobacco can lead to oral cancers, gum disease and increased nicotine addiction (U.S. Surgeon General). Snuff and Snus have been found to increases the risk of cancer, stroke and fatal cardiovascular disease (The International Agency for Research on Cancer).
    • While marketing of cigarettes is on the decline, marketing of smokeless products has risen 400% in the last 20 years (FTC). Marketing of smokeless tobacco products target youth by associating the product with sports and adventure activities, implying that use is part of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Tobacco-free policies are now a national standard for college campuses, advocated by major health agencies. MSU will become the sixth campus in Montana to adopt this approach (Montana Tech has been tobacco-free since July 2010; UM’s tobacco-free policy went into effect August 2011).

Are e-cigarettes included?

Yes, the policy prohibits all forms of tobacco and any nicotine delivery device that has not been approved by the FDA for cessation (the FDA has the authority to regulate e-cigarettes as a “tobacco product” under the Tobacco Control Act). National health agencies remain skeptical of the safety of these devices due to a lack of scientific data. Until FDA approval is granted, these will not be allowed on campus, which is consistent with national standards and guidelines.

Isn’t it my right to use tobacco?

Tobacco use is a legal product for adults. However, the university owns campus property and can establish policies that protect the health of all campus members. A tobacco-free policy does not prohibit tobacco use, this merely establishes where use can occur. In addition, Montana law recognizes that an individual’s right to breathe smoke-free air takes priority over an individual’s desire to smoke (MCA 5-40-102).

Does the tobacco-free MSU policy extend to other campus-owned property?

Yes, the policy encompasses all university owned property. Tobacco use will be prohibited in all university owned vehicles as well.

Will there be designated smoking areas on campus?

No. The use of tobacco will be prohibited on all campus grounds. Smoking zones and perimeter policies have not been found to be effective (or enforceable) and smoking shelters are expensive to construct and maintain. Campuses with full tobacco-free policies have reported fewer problems with compliance than policies that include smoking areas.

Will there be a map that shows the exact areas included in the policy?

Yes. This will be developed during the educational phase of policy implementation, which will include the specific boundaries.

What about football games, concerts or other public events?

All events occurring on campus or on campus-property will be covered by the tobacco-free policy. Signage, electronic and printed notices will be provided to visitors at games and events to make sure everyone is clearly informed about the policy.

How will the policy be enforced?

Initially there will be an emphasis on education as the campus and community adapt to the policy. Violators will receive a friendly reminder, along with cessation information. Repeat or problem violations will be handled like any other conduct issue on campus: either through the Dean of Student’s office or the employee’s department.

A recent study of tobacco-free campuses found that most campus members respect the policy once they are informed. Serious enforcement problems are infrequent and are managed by campus officials.

What should I do if I see someone using tobacco on campus?

The policy will best be enforced by everyone taking an active role in informing people that a tobacco-free policy is in effect. A large majority of MSU students and employees support a tobacco-free environment, so it is appropriate for you to speak up.

If you notice an area where people are consistently violating the policy, you can report this to the MSU Tobacco-free Task Force by writing to tobaccofree@montana.edu.

How should I respond if someone gets angry or aggressive?

Do not continue to speak to anyone who becomes angry or confrontational. Walk away and report the behavior to University Police. 

What about ceremonial use of tobacco?

Specific American Indian ceremonial activities are protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. Use must be approved in advance by campus administration or designee.

How can I quit (or help someone I know quit)?

Tobacco-free policies have been shown to encourage people to quit. These policies also support those who are trying to quit. Free quit-kits are available in the Health Promotion office (second floor of the Student Health Service).

The Montana Quitline 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) provides individual coaching and free or low-cost cessation support, including nicotine replacement therapies and prescription drugs.

For more information on campus and community cessation support, visit www.montana.edu/health/tobaccofree.

I am interested in helping with tobacco-free efforts on campus. Who should I contact?

MSU Health Advancement has an ongoing task force and an active student group working to prevent tobacco use on campus and support cessation. Contact the Tobacco-free task force at tobaccofree@montana.edu