Tobacco Prevention and Cessation (Dec 2016)

Tobacco Control at Community Colleges: Context and Opportunities

  • Scott McIntosh,
  • Andrew F. Wall,
  • Tye Johnson,
  • Douglas H. Done,
  • Jordan H. Kurtzman,
  • Duncan Ververs,
  • Deborah J. Ossip

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 2, no. December


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Introduction Tobacco use among United States college-aged students remains higher than that of the national average. While a majority of public health literature has explained tobacco control programs and policies at traditional four-year colleges and universities, little research exists on programs and policies at two-year community colleges. It is important to understand such efforts at these institutions as they have vastly different infrastructures and enroll a more diverse and at-risk student body compared to traditional four-year colleges. Methods The role of community colleges in health efforts aimed at tobacco use was examined at four community colleges. Qualitative research methods included 18 interviews and four focus groups (N=55), document review, and direct environmental observation. Results Community colleges offered a limited number of tobacco cessation and secondhand smoke prevention initiatives. All colleges provided tobacco control literature, though additional programming varied by college. Indoor and outdoor tobacco use policies existed on all campuses though enforcement was problematic. Little evidence was found that current program and policy approaches are based upon best practices or are being employed successfully. Conclusions Opportunities for best practice strategies for tobacco control were identified for community colleges, and would require little additional infrastructure. Policy adherence and enforcement could be improved with awareness raising with students, faculty and staff. Cessation tools for students must be convenient, understandable, and accessible from multiple locations. Feasible approaches for future initiatives could include testing low cost technology such as quitlines, Web Assisted Tobacco Interventions (WATI) and outside partnerships with community organizations and health agencies.