Celebrating the Great American Smokeout on Campus

Updated Information 2016: If you’re interested in getting other ideas for how to enhance tobacco cessation programming on your college campus, consider our self-paced, On Demand online course, Collegiate Smokeout: Great Events to Pump Up Campus Tobacco Programming, which includes timely presentations regarding cessation tools, the impact of secondhand smoke, the environmental impact of cigarettes, and new tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes.


The idea is simple, though the change can be hard. For those who smoke, commit to not smoking for 24 hours. Then try 48 hours, then 72. Break the change down into smaller pieces.

The Great American Smokeout is an annual event promoting smoking cessation around the country. In health circles, it’s a sort of “high holiday” for behavior change.

“If a scientist had created a pill that reduced heart attacks as much as smoke-free laws have, that person would, without a doubt, win The Nobel Prize.”
A Little History

Like many good ideas, the beginnings of the Great American Smokeout were modest. In 1970, Arthur P. Mullaney asked people in Randolph, Massachusetts to give up cigarettes for a day and donate the money they would have spent on tobacco to a high school scholarship fund. The concept started to catch on, and in 1976, the California Division of the American Cancer Society convinced nearly one million smokers to quit for the day. Since then, it has become an annual event observed on the third Thursday in November.

The CDC originally funded The BACCHUS Network in the late 1990’s to work on tobacco prevention with college campuses. This led to the development of an annual “Collegiate Smokeout” programming manual for member campuses. (Institutional Members can access the 2014 version for free)

Today, as part of NASPA, the BACCHUS Initiatives continue to provide campuses with resources, materials, training and technical assistance to reduce tobacco use among today's college students.

How Far We Have Come
University Smoking Policies and the Rise of Smoke-Free College Campuses

Even just ten years ago, the thought of having a college smoking ban or a completely tobacco-free campus seemed a little far-fetched. Now, though, there are 1,477 campuses with 100% smoke-free policies, 975 of which are 100% tobacco free. Policy change accelerates norm change.

Why are campuses adopting tobacco-free policies so rapidly?

  • First impressions are vital. Who wants to lead prospective students and their parents through smoky entryways and cigarette butt litter?
  • Students who do not smoke when entering college are less likely to start during their time on campus.
  • Health insurers notice when fewer employees smoke.
  • Facilities management can spend more time beautifying the campus and less time cleaning up toxic tobacco waste.
  • Parents love it.
  • Those with asthma can move more freely across campus, without worrying about side effects from secondhand smoke.
  • Student smokers and tobacco users trying to quit have an easier time in environments where tobacco use is not allowed.
  • Everyone has more opportunities to enjoy the fresh air on campus.

The rise of smoke-free and tobacco-free places throughout the first decade of the new millennium arguably has done more to save lives and drive down tobacco use in such a short period of time than any other single method in the past. As an advocate friend of mine likes to say, “If a scientist had created a pill that reduced heart attacks as much as smoke-free laws have, that person would, without a doubt, win The Nobel Prize.”

Many of our students grew up going to smoke-free restaurants and other public places. Compare that to the days when smoking was allowed virtually everywhere—classrooms, grocery stores, and airplanes. It is hard to imagine going back. That’s how we know the norm has changed for the better.

BACCHUS Tobacco Cessation Resources and Services

The Great American Smokeout is just one day out of the year. By reclaiming our campuses as tobacco-free environments and connecting students with smoking cessation resources, our impact can last for generations.

BACCHUS offers a wealth of resources for student affairs professions, such as information on common tobacco products, ideas for promoting cessation on campus, and tips for building and ensuring compliance with a tobacco-free campus policy.

The BACCHUS Store has tobacco cessation pamphlets, campus quit smoking kits, giveaway items, such as ‘Smoke-Free Zone’ breath freshening candies, and other resources to enhance your tobacco-related programming and help you prepare for the next Great American Smokeout. Browse our wide variety of quit smoking resources for students and student affairs professionals.

We also offer trainings and technical assistance to help campuses at all phases of the tobacco policy process. To learn more, please contact the BACCHUS Initiatives office at 303-871-0901 or e-mail BACCHUS Initiatives staff.

The Great American Smokeout is just one day out of the year. By reclaiming our campuses as tobacco-free environments and connecting students with smoking cessation resources, our impact can last for generations.


Other Related Events and Resources:
NASPA Strategies Conferences

If you’re looking to network with other student affairs practitioners and share ideas about how to improve the prevention and intervention strategies at your institution, join us in January 2017 for our 2017 NASPA Strategies Conferences:

NASPA On Demand

As part of our Online Learning Community, we’ve hosted and recorded an On Demand, self-paced streaming conversation called, Collegiate Smokeout: Great Events to Pump Up Campus Tobacco Programming. Presenters discuss ways to boost your tobacco cessation programming efforts and provide timely information regarding other relevant topics, such as the rise of e-cigarettes.