Campus tobacco control policies and cessation interventions in college students: a commentary calling for research and action to address tobacco-related health disparities

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Translational behavioral medicine








College students; Health disparities; Risk factors; Tobacco use; Young adults


Tobacco-related health disparities (TRHDs) have a significant impact on population health in the USA. Effectively preventing and controlling TRHDs among young adult populations require multiple prevention and cessation points, including within college/university contexts. This commentary addresses current campus tobacco control policies and cessation interventions for U.S. college students, with an emphasis on TRHDs and opportunities for research and research translation to reduce these disparities. This commentary is informed by literature published between 2010 and 2020 regarding (a) prevalence and impact of campus tobacco control policies; and/or (b) behavioral outcomes from cessation interventions for young adults attending colleges. Despite a doubling of college campuses adopting tobacco-free policies from 2012 to 2017, roughly two-thirds continue to operate without such policies. Few policies address alternative tobacco products (e.g., e-cigarettes, cigars/cigarillos, and hookah), and communication about and enforcement of existing policies is extremely limited. A broad range of cessation intervention strategies have targeted individuals in this age group, but with little focus on TRHDs and limited intervention dissemination. Importantly, college students representing populations at risk for TRHDs (e.g., racial/ethnic/sexual/gender minorities, low socioeconomic status) are less likely to be exposed to strong tobacco control policies or supports for cessation. There are untapped opportunities for behavioral medicine approaches to reduce TRHDs in college settings. Research findings regarding multilevel (policy, community-level, and individual-level) interventions must be translated to policy/practice in order to address tobacco use, particularly among vulnerable college student populations.