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Health Impact of Tobacco FAQ

Is secondhand smoke outside really that serious?
  • Yes. Outdoor levels of secondhand smoke are as harmful as indoor levels.[i]
  • Even brief exposure to smoke as you’re walking into a building can cause or exacerbate heart disease, asthma, allergies, and bronchitis (not to mention the smell of smoke on clothes).
  • Secondhand smoke is a Class-A carcinogen, meaning it is a substance that has been proven to cause cancer.[ii]
  • Secondhand smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals.[iii]
  • Secondhand smoke contains at least 69 chemicals known to cause cancer.[iv]
  • It contains at least 172 toxic substances, including three regulated outdoor air pollutants.[v]
  • The Surgeon General’s report specifies that tobacco use in any form, active or passive represents a significant health hazard to both smokers and non-smoker bystanders.[vi]
  • 50,000 non-smokers die each year due to involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke in the U.S. alone, including:[vii]
    • 3,000 lung cancer deaths in non-smokers[viii]
    • 69,000 cases of heart disease deaths in non-smokers[ix]
    • 25,000 new cases of asthma [x]
  • Even occasional exposure can increase the incidence of coronary heart disease by 58%.[xi]   

[i] Repace, James. Fact Sheet: Outdoor Air Pollution from Secondhand Smoke.  Available at: Accessed June 2008.

[ii] National Toxicology Program.  Environmental Tobacco Smoke.  May 2005. Available at:

[iii] Campaign for tobacco-free kids. Health Harms from Secondhand smoke. Available at:

[iv] Campaign for tobacco-free kids. Health Harms from Secondhand smoke. Available at:

[v] Repace, James. Fact Sheet: Outdoor Air Pollution from Secondhand Smoke.  Available at: Accessed June 2008.

[vi] Centers for Disease Control.  2000 Surgeon General’s Report-Reducing Tobacco Use. August 2000. Available at: Accessed June 2008.

[vii] U.S. Department of Health and Human Servs., The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General—Executive Summary, at i (2006), available at <

[viii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Secondhand Smoke.  March 2008. Available at: Accessed June 2008.

[xi] Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center. Available at: Accessed June 2008.

Is smoking a constitutional “right”?
  • Tobacco use is a choice, not a constitutional right.
    • There is no constitutional “right” to smoke.[i]
    • Smokers are not a category protected under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.[i]
    • Smoking is not a protected liberty right under the Due Process clause of the Constitution.[i]
  • People do have the choice to smoke. A tobacco-free CU would not take away that choice, rather, tobacco users simply would not be able to use on campus where their personal choice negatively impacts the health of all people around them.

[i] Graff, Samantha. Tobacco Control Legal Consortium. There is No Constitutional Right to Smoke: 2008.


What about personal choice?

A no smoking policy at CU would not eliminate a person’s choice to use tobacco products, these individuals simply would not be permitted to use these products on campus at CU where their personal choice negatively impacts the health of all people around them. An example of a current law using the same logic is driving while intoxicated. Laws that make driving under the influence of alcohol illegal do not take away an individual’s choice to consume alcohol, however it does limit where and when a person can choose to be under the influence. These laws are to protect the general publics’ safety as are no smoking environments.


Aren't smokers a minority group that deserves protection?

Certainly smokers are a minority group, in terms of numbers – yes they do not make up the majority of our world, U.S. or campus population. However, Smokers are not a category protected under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Likewise, smoking is not a protected liberty right under the Due Process clause of the Constitution. Suggesting that smokers are an oppressed minority group is not only an uneducated argument, but can be extremely offensive to truly oppressed, underrepresented and underserved groups, such as students of color here at CU. Tobacco use is a choice.

What are other colleges and universities doing?
  • Current list of colleges and universities with smoke free policies.
What about the safety of students who choose to smoke off campus?

CU cannot restrict who goes off campus nor when students choose to go off campus. Each time a student leaves campus it is their personal choice. We believe safety is a concern for students both on and off campus and this is why campus safety monitors not only the general campus grounds but also areas around the perimeter of campus. Students who choose to go off campus to smoke would not be treated any differently than students who choose to go off campus to study, eat, go out, etc.

What about all the trash and butts that will end up on the sidewalks and impact our neighbors?

CU will be working with the Boulder County Health Department and with representatives from the surrounding neighborhoods to address this potential impact. 

What help is available for people to stop using tobacco?
  • Free cessation counseling is available through the Colorado Quit Line.  Nicotine replacement, tips, and phone support are included.
  • Faculty and Staff Assistance is a resource and Community Health provides resources and 1:1 cessation counseling.
  • Research shows that environmental policies are one of two strategies proven to reduce tobacco rates. The other is increasing tobacco taxes. These initiatives support quitting by reducing the number of smoking cues in the environment, making it easier to quit. 
  • Other university resources, like exercise and yoga, stress reduction, and general counseling can help people develop skills that replace the role tobacco has played in their lives.
What if I don't want to quit?
  • You can carry tobacco on campus.  
  • People have told us that they plan to manage their smoking; many people smoke moderately (8-10 cigarettes a day), and plan to smoke around their class or work schedule.  
  • Replacement therapies are available to manage cravings if necessary. 


What are college student tobacco rates?
  • Nationally, the 18-24 age population smoking rates are 28.2%.
  • This population has a higher rate of smoking than any other group.
  • 90% of adult smokers began smoking by age 18.[i]
  • In Colorado, 23% of the 18-24 age population smokes
  • At CU, 21% of students have smoked at least one cigarette in the last month.
    • 6.5% are daily smokers.
    • 1.2% used smokeless tobacco daily.
  • 60% of CU students have never smoked.

[i] Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Tobacco Use Among Youth. December 2007. Available at: Accessed June 2008.

Do CU student tobacco users want to quit?

Yes. Of student smokers, 73% reported they want to quit.

What do I need to know about the tobacco industry?
  • When used as directed, their product kills
  • Tobacco companies spend $28+ million per day promoting their products.
  • The 18-24 age group is the youngest legal group tobacco compaines can target
  • In response to smoke-free indoor regulations, tobacco companies have increased marketing its “smokeless” products by at least $1 million.
  • Ammonia-based compounds are used to increase absorption of nicotine in cigarettes
  • In recent years, tobacco companies have increased nicotine in cigarettes by 11%
  • “Lights” and “Filters” do not decrease risk, this is a tactic used to increase consumer use
  • Tobacco companies place their products in films; it is estimated that this leads to an estimated 400,000 new adolescent smokers annually
  • Use social and psychological strategies to attract specific age and demographic groups
  • Design their “quit smoking” campaigns strategically to increase smoking
  • Quote from - R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company:
    • Younger adult smokers have been the critical factor in the growth and decline of every major brand and company over the last 50 years. They will continue to be just as important to brands/companies in the future for two simple reasons: The renewal of the market stems almost entirely from 18-year-old smokers. No more than 5 percent of smokers start after age 24. [And] the brand loyalty of 18-year-old smokers far outweighs any tendency to switch with age... Brands/companies which fail to attract their fair share of younger adult smokers face an uphill battle. They must achieve net switching gains every year to merely hold share... Younger adult smokers are the only source of replacement smokers... If younger adults turn away from smoking, the industry must decline, just as a population which does not give birth will eventually dwindle.[i]

[i] Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Tobacco Company marketing to college students since the multistate settlement agreement was signed.


How many people die from tobacco-related causes?
  • Tobacco-related death is the most preventable cause of mortality in the United States.[i]
  • Each year, over 400,000 people die in the U.S. from tobacco-related causes.[i]
  • It is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.
  • Tobacco use accounts for more annual deaths than suicide, murder, HIV/AIDS, alcohol use, illegal drug use and motor vehicle injuries combined.[i] 
  • Among non-smokers, secondhand smoke causes approximately 50,000 deaths each year.[I]

[i] Centers for Disease Control.  Fast Facts on Smoking and Tobacco Use.  April 2008. Available at:



What are the harmful effects of smokeless tobacco?
  • Smokeless tobacco contains 3,000 chemicals including at least 24 carcinogens.[i]
  • One dip contains five times the amount of nicotine as one cigarette.[ii]
  • Mouth and throat cancers are the most common cancers of smokeless tobacco users.[iii]

[i] The Bacchus Network.  Top Facts: Spit Tobacco. November 2006. Available at:


What does the Surgeon General say?
  • 2012 Surgeon General’s Report – Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults

 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention