Campus is ‘smoke free’ since 2010

'Tobacco free DU' in the courtyard of Nagel Hall.

‘Tobacco free DU’ in the courtyard of Nagel Hall.

The University of Denver is a smoke free campus, from both marijuana and tobacco. However, tobacco smoking was only recently banned from campus less than a decade ago.

According to a 2002 survey done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cigarette smoking rates declined among US adults but held steady with young adults ages 18-24. A study by Henry Wechsler done a year earlier also revealed that smoking rates were lower among residents of smoke-free housing, and students who did not smoke were also less likely to pick up the habit.

As a response, in 2005 the American College Health association began a push to create tobacco free college campuses. Five years later in January of 2010, University of Denver’s previous chancellor Robert Coombe announced the decision and it’s collaboration with the DU Tobacco Task Force (TTF.)

               The university’s previous policies banned smoking inside and outside of all buildings, and within 25 feet of entrances or exits. The task force was lead by Dr. Sam Alexander, one of DU’s previous executive directors of University Health, and part of the Health and Counseling Center. The TTF was not even funded by university administration but by a grant from the Colorado Collegiate Tobacco Prevention Initiative, in order to survey student opinions on smoking policies and their effectiveness in 2008. However, a survey from the previous spring showed a majority of students were not even aware of DU’s then current perimeter policy for smoking. This previous policy banned smoking inside and outside of all buildings, and within 25 feet of entrances or exits.

Ashtray with 'Smoke Free DU' sign outside the Media, Film and Journalism Building on Gaylord

Ashtray with ‘Smoke Free DU’ sign outside the Media, Film and Journalism Building on Gaylord

A year later, after the study concluded, the TTF made a formal recommendation to DU’s chancellor current at the time, Chancellor Coombe, which he then put into action January of 2010.

Today DU’s policy bans smoking everywhere on campus, with exceptions of smoking an area of 25 feet from public perimeter rights-of-way, and/or for special events held for the public at DU event centers like the Ritchie Center and Newman Center for Performing Arts. The ban also does not limit personal use or possession of tobacco for employees or students. The distance of ‘25’ feet was taken from DU’s previous perimeter policy and the fact that second-hand smoke can be harmful within a distance of 25 feet.

Before the smoking ban passed, the DU Clarion gathered some faculty and student opinions on the matter. According to the local sources, DU employees were at the center of concern for the smoking policy. Faculty Senate president Michael Levine-Clark expressed worry to the Clarion that long-time employees may be forced to quit smoking, but expected the Chancellor to consider employee and student opinions before enforcing the ban. Faculty Sen. Victor Castellani, Languages and Literature Department chair, was in support of the prohibition but still expressed that “the effect would be minimal, would probably not affect people’s behavior at all, and would just make some people angry.”

Nicotine break outside Nagel Hall.

Nicotine break outside Nagel Hall.

Talking to some present day DU student smokers, nearly seven years into the tobacco ban, they agree. Two anonymous DU students said that the ban was simply ‘inconvenient,’ and the two hardly changed their smoking habits because of the ban, smoking outside resident halls and by dumpsters.

“I don’t feel like anybody follows the rules anyway.” The second DU student expressed.

One of the students has been a smoker since the age of 15, with small pauses leading up to the today, the other student picked up smoking last January. Both students still smoke casually close to their dorms, despite being confronted by campus policy multiple times


Ash Tray filled with trash outside Driscoll Bridge and the Hospitality building.

Ash Tray filled with trash outside Driscoll Bridge and the Hospitality building despite campus-wide smoking ban in 2010.


“What’s especially confusing is that there is still an ashtray outside of Driscoll, although we aren’t allowed to smoke there,” said the first student, who had been confronted by Campus Safety for smoking at that very spot. The second student also mentioned an ashtray also in the back of the Johnson McFarlane dorms, which Campus Safety had also confronted him for smoking outside of. Ashtrays can actually still be found on multiple places on campus despite the ban, and efforts have been made to get them removed because of the confusion, but with no success yet.

One of the students commented on constantly seeing trash in the ashtrays, suspecting Campus Safety is trying to mask the trays as a common trash cans.

Talking to campus safety, one officer said although he’s seen a fair amount of smokers openly disobeying the ban, it’s not as big of a concern to Campus Safety as marijuana or alcohol use on campus. Campus safety policy if a student, faculty member, or visitor is caught smoking on campus, is to inform the offender of the university’s policy, ask them to stop or leave campus. If the smoker doesn’t comply, then they will be reported to the appropriate offices for their conduct.

Despite the perceived lack of effectiveness by students and pushback from both students and faculty, the general consensus of administration still lies with the hope that the ban discourages smoking and reduces second-hand smoke for the health of it’s students and faculty on campus.

One Response to Campus is ‘smoke free’ since 2010

  • Marisa Haag
    Marisa Haag says:

    This is something that I’ve noticed around campus too. I think that they should allow smoking only in certain sections of campus so students don’t feel like they need to throw them away in public spaces. The ashtrays around campus are also conflicting to the message.

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