Columbia University Tobacco Work Group Executive Summary

October 2010

In 2008, following changes to New York State law prohibiting smoking in college and university residence halls, and inquiries from the NYC Health Commissioner regarding Columbia’s campus tobacco policy, the Vice President for Campus Services, Mr. Scott Wright, convened a Tobacco Work Group.  Mr. Wright’s charge to the committee was to review all existing University tobacco-related policies and relevant state and city regulations, and make recommendations for ultimate review by the University Senate. 
This Executive Summary provides a brief overview of the Work Group’s efforts and final recommendations. 

Tobacco Work Group
Chaired by Michael McNeil, the Director of Alice! Health Promotion of Health Services, the Work Group included student and staff representatives from 12 separate Morningside schools and departments (see page 2).  Over two years, the Work Group reviewed all University tobacco policies; New York State and City statutory regulations; best practices recommendations from organizations focused on the public health ramifications of tobacco; the scholarly literature related to tobacco and its long-term health effects; and policy documents from other U.S. colleges and universities, including peer institutions. 
As part of its process, the Work Group additionally invited discussion and feedback from the broad University community by in-person and electronic means.  In these sessions, the Group received input regarding several options including 1) a campus-wide No Smoking policy; 2) a minimum distance rule (anywhere between 20 and 50 feet); and, 3) No Change to current practice.

Based on its two-year evaluative process, the Work Group recommends the Morningside Campus adopt a “consistent distance rule” specifying smoking is only permitted when a person is a minimum of 50 feet away from all buildings.
This recommendation is consistent with New York State Law and public health best practices and provides an equitable balance between the concerns of smokers and non-smokers.   
For the purposes of this recommendation, a building is defined as all components of a physical building structure including overhangs and air intakes.  (Minor modifications to the distance could be considered, as necessary, to ensure safety.)  Smoking receptacles should be moved at least 50 feet away from all campus buildings and that appropriate policy-related signage posted.  Following adoption by the University Senate, the Work Group will assist schools and departments, as necessary, in updating relevant policy documents.

Columbia University Tobacco Work Group Representation
Membership of the work group comprised student and staff representatives from 12 separate Morningside schools and departments and other relevant areas.  Membership changed minimally during the two-year process, and included representation from the following:

Columbia College
The Fu Foundation School of Engineering & Applied Sciences
Graduate School of Business
Graduate School of Journalism
School of General Studies
School of International and Public Affairs

Administrative and Student Service Areas:
Health Services
Housing Services
Human Resources
Lerner Hall
Public Safety
Residential Programs
Student Services


Michael P. McNeil, Work Group Chair
Director, Alice! Health Promotion, Health Services at Columbia