Northeastern To Go Smoke-Free

Starting fall 2013, students will no longer be able to light up on campus.


You won’t see these at Northeastern next year. Photo via Shutterstock

Northeastern University announced Monday that its campus will go completely smoke-free beginning fall 2013 in an effort to improve campus-wide health, making it one of the first large Boston colleges to do so.

The decision came after months of research, discussion, and polling done by a 10-person committee made up of both faculty and students, and was motivated by an effort to improve overall health for smokers and non-smokers alike. Terry Fulmer, dean of the Bouvé College of Health Sciences at Northeastern and chair of the smoking policy committee, says the ruling comes down to valuing public health. “Nearly half a million people die from cigarette-related, smoke-related diseases or disorders every year,” she explains. “It’s a really crucial public health issue, and we really need to do everything we can to help, particularly young individuals, figure a smoke-free future.”

Details about the exact policy—including how it will be enforced and what the consequences for those caught smoking will be, worthy questions considering the size of Northeastern’s campus and student body—have yet to be finalized, but an email sent to the student body Monday says the school is at work developing “an implementation plan that will include education efforts, and an awareness campaign around smoking cessation resources.”

Northeastern already offered support groups and other resources for students looking to quit smoking, but Fulmer says those programs will be expanded with the introduction of the new policy, and adds that such efforts are more important than punishment mechanisms. “We will use a public health model to approach this process and to enforce this process, and that’s one of education and support,” she says. “We have the Ready to Quit! program, we have nicotine patches, we have support groups, we have regular emails. We’re going to use a public health model and a supportive approach to moving this ahead.”

And though Fulmer says there has been some negative feedback to the decision on campus and via social media, mostly centered around doubting the feasibility of the program or protesting loss of freedom, she says she and her colleagues remain optimistic that the initiative will work. “The ratio of people supporting this to not supporting this is very dominant; it’s striking,” she says. “We believe, fundamentally, that people want to be healthy, and that a public health model is going to be the best way to move us into this next phase.”