Create Change: A student toolkit from the tobacco-free colleges initiative.

Bookmark and Share


“If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.” ~ Lewis Carroll

You can start the process of passing a tobacco free policy on your campus with use of the following tools and resources.

Step One

Conduct a policy assessment

What information do you need to gather to determine the attitudes about tobacco use on your campus? Get a copy of your existing campus tobacco-use policy and study it closely. Use the Elements of a 100% Tobacco-free Campus Policy checklist to see if the existing polices has all the necessary components. 

  • What is the campus culture/perceived notions of tobacco use? 
  • What is the campus desire for tobacco use/elimination? 
  • What are relevant laws and policies on the campus and in the surrounding community? How will state tobacco policies help/hinder us?
  • Are there case studies and articles that can help guide efforts? 
  • What resources do you have? What funding do we have/need to pass the policy? (school programs, departments, outside grants)

Step Two:

Find and educate allies

Once you have completed the policy and resource assessment, share the results with other likely allies. Recruit from a broad base. One art student, one student from the newspaper, a staff person from maintenance, a professor, an athlete, and a parent can all tap into different campus populations and spread the message more effectively. 

Establish a listing of potential partners and allies. Don’t forget about working with community partners such as business owners, clergy and community health officials.

Develop a tobacco use prevention student coalition

  • Recruit at year-round events such as new student orientations, club days and health promotion events.
  • Establish official college club recognition and gain a voice on the Student Council and representation in the collection of student club councils. 
  • Create a list-serve for communication and distribution of articles and links.
  • Act as a supervisor, but allow students to take on leadership roles.

Combine forces for education

  • Utilize the developed student organization as well as your organization to implement educational campaigns on campus.
  • Participate in national events such as The Great American Smokeout and Kick Butts Day. 

Step Three:

Determine culture/perceived opinions of tobacco use and the desire for a tobacco-free policy.

  • Circulate a petition on your campus and at businesses and other public venues. A petition can help underscore what statewide polling already shows - that the public overwhelmingly supports comprehensive tobacco-free policies.
  • Use faculty/student surveys to help you to determine the current knowledge, attitudes and support regarding prohibiting tobacco use on your campus. 
  • Use faculty resolutions to show support for policy change on your campus.
  • Use social media to promote all the activities listed above.

Step Four:

Use our model tobacco policy to help get you started.

State law allows private colleges and community colleges to pass 100% tobacco-free campus policies. A comprehensive 100% tobacco-free campus policy should: 

  • Apply to all students, faculty, staff, visitors and contract workers;
  • Apply on all campus grounds, vehicles, buildings and events;
  • Have a defined start date, ideally 6-12 months from the date of passage;
  • Outline implementation procedures for encouraging 100% tobacco-free college compliance;
  • Outline consequences for staff non-compliance; and
  • Address resources for how to quit for students and staff. 
  • Currently state law prohibits smoking in all UNC system institution buildings and dorms and allows the universities to prohibit tobacco use within 100 linear feet of campus buildings.

Step Five:

Develop a plan to educate the stakeholders:

After you have determined the current tobacco use policies on campus, the current opinions on tobacco-free policies, assess the current percentage of tobacco users (including vaping). Use this information to develop a reasonably paced implementation plan. A plan might go as follows: 

  • Educate the campus about the negative health effects of tobacco use and smoking and share data illustrating that a larger proportion of individuals don’t use tobacco, using normative educational methods to inform people;  
  • Creatively educate your campus about current smoking policies (for example if there is a perimeter policy in effect, measure and draw a chalk line where the perimeter is);
  • Present the information from your surveys, tobacco-free commitment statements from departments/organizations, tobacco-free petitions, health studies and examples from other colleges; and 
  • Gather more information and more support, knowing that a broad base of support and well organized information and facts. Establish your credibility early and be persistent.

To learn more about developing an implementation plan go to: What are the steps in tobacco-free policy implementation?

Step Six:

Prepare for a Board of Trustees meeting.

Once you have the model of your own draft policy, meet with members of the school administration to educate them about the benefits of a strengthened tobacco policy. It’s important to stress that this policy is something students, staff and faculty want. So use the collected petitions, survey results and signed resolutions to show campus support. 

Also, you should meet individually with members of the Board of Trustees to educate them about the policy and to determine their willingness to support the policy. If a member is particularly supportive in this conversation, ask them if they would consider being a champion for the measure.

Become familiar with the Board of Trustees’ procedure for adopting campus policies. Allies on the Board and within the administration can help provide background into board procedures and can help you gauge the level of board support. 

Remember: Timing is crucial so this must be done in advance of the board meeting.

Before the meeting, identify your spokespeople – students can be especially powerful advocates. Contact your community supporters to get them to attend the board presentation in support of the policy.

Step Seven:  

Present the policy proposal to the Board of Trustees. 

Make your presentation to the board concise with a mixture of factual data and personal stories. If allowed, highlight brief positive statements from different stakeholders such as students, faculty, staff and health professionals.

In your presentation, thank board members for the work they have already done to promote campus health initiatives.

One technique is to frame your board presentation as an opportunity to answer the arguments of those vocally opposed to the policy. For instance, if concerns about compliance have been raised, explain how easy policy implementation can be when it is communicated clearly and regularly.

NCDHHS, Division of Public Health
North Carolina Public Health


1932 Mail Service Center/

Raleigh, NC 27699-1932/

Phone: (919) 707-5400/

Fax: (919) 870-4844