Report of the Task Force on Morningside and Lamont Smoking Policy
September 28, 2012


The current tobacco policy for the Morningside, Lamont and Nevis campuses on the Columbia website ( states that “Smoking is prohibited outdoors within 20 feet of all University buildings,” and provides links to tobacco cessation programs. In 2008 Columbia convened a working group of students and staff from 12 schools and departments which recommended that this “consistent distance rule” be extended to a minimum of 50 feet from buildings ( However, in a compromise reached after the Senate meeting of November 12, 2010, that distance was reduced to 20 feet. Dissemination of information on smoking cessation services was also part of the plan, which was passed in a Senate resolution dated December 3, 2010 ( The resolution called for the policy to be reexamined within two years.

The American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation documents more than 1,300 smoke-free campuses1. The current Columbia policy, however, is consistent with policies of other schools, including Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, MIT, Oberlin, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania. Harvard’s medical school, business school and Kennedy School campuses are now smoke-free indoors and out; elsewhere smoking is prohibited within 25 feet of buildings. At Yale, smoking is prohibited indoors in areas where five or more employees work and there are designated smoking areas.

Goal of Task Force

To assess the current implementation of the tobacco policy, “No smoking within 20 feet of University buildings.”


The Task Force was convened in Spring 2012 by External Relations and Research Committee Co-Chair Sharyn O’Halloran and charged with completing an evaluation and report back to the Committee by Fall 2012. The Committee met three times during Summer 2012. In June, task force members conducted surveys across the campus to locate “no smoking” signage and presence of ashtrays or cigarette disposal equipment, and to examine evidence of cigarette smoking within 20 feet of campus buildings (e.g., cigarette butts). In addition, we revisited what had been done to communicate information about the policy and to disseminate information about the availability of smoking cessation support programs.


Evidence of smoking on campus. As depicted in photos from across the Morningside campus, cigarette butts were frequently present, even within a few feet of the entrance of some buildings. Some buildings had “no smoking” signage posted in a window or mounted at the door, but these were in the minority. Some signs were not readily visible to the passersby, either because they were located in a high window or were behind a bench.
Please note that these data were collected during the summer, when usage patterns may differ significantly from the academic year. This timing may have had an impact on the results, most notably an underrepresentation of usage in highly populated academic year locations such as Butler Library.

At Lamont, there was no “no smoking” signage to be found anywhere outside and the policy is not advertised, known, nor adhered to. All but one of the smoking stations (ashtrays) were within 20 feet of buildings, often adjacent to doorways. The ground around smoking stations was generally not heavily littered with cigarette butts.

Dissemination of information regarding the policy and cessation programs.

What has been done in terms of dissemination and communication of the policy to students, staff, faculty, environmental services?The new policy and signage were provided to all building managers. Additionally, the deans of students at all Morningside schools were provided with language announcing the policy change to share with the respective populations. Human Resources also provided language to employees, with an emphasis on what could be done if an employee was non-compliant. Information was also shared via student publications including the Columbia Spectator and Bwog.

What is the status of cessation services, and how have these been made available?Cessation services are available to students via Columbia Health Medical Services. The service is promoted by the RAs (for undergraduates), announcements sent by email from the respective schools (text provided by Alice!), the Columbia Health website, and referral cards given out in each of the five units of Columbia Health. Since launching an enhanced cessation programs in 2007, Medical Services has seen a 25% increase in appointments for tobacco cessation. From academic year 2007-08 to academic year 2011-12 more than 1,200 students have been seen for tobacco cessation.
For employees the cessation services are available via the Employee Assistance Program (all employees) and each health insurance program. Additionally, cessation information is included on all signage.


While there was some evidence that receptacles for cigarette butts are used, there were also butts scattered across the campus within the 20-foot “no smoking” zone. Some receptacles were well within 20 feet of buildings. Similarly, while some signage was prominent at doorways to buildings, there were a number of buildings with no signage, or signage that was difficult to see. We concluded that the “no smoking within 20 feet of buildings” policy is poorly implemented across the Morningside campus and not at all implemented at the Lamont campus.


As has been shown in other studies, implementation and enforcement of a “no smoking within 20 feet of buildings” policy on the University campus will require multiple strategies, the use of all available means of communication, and ongoing reinforcement.1,2

If the current “no smoking within 20 feet” policy is to be effectively enforced, the following actions are recommended:



Francis Y. Lee, College of Physicians and Surgeons, co-chair
Elaine Larson, School of Nursing, co-chair
Victoria Benitez, Public Affairs
Michael McNeil, Alice! Health Promotion, Columbia Health
Stefan Mrozewski, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Consuelo Mora-McLaughlin, Neurology
Richard Sun, Columbia College


1. American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation. (July 2012). U.S. Colleges and Universities with Smokefree and Tobacco-free Policies. Retrieved from:
2. Harris KJ, Stearns JN, Kovach RG, Harrar SW. Enforcing an outdoor smoking ban on a college campus: Effects of a multicomponent approach. J Am Coll Health 2009; 58:121-126.
3. Glassman TJ, Reindl DM, Whewell AT. Strategies for implementing a tobacco-free campus policy. J Am Coll Health 2011; 59:764-768.