Online Program

Next wave in tobacco-free college campuses: A student movement to challenge tobacco company recruitment at a public university

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 : 11:30 a.m. - 11:50 a.m.

Kate Cole, MPH, Tobacco Studies Program, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA
Patricia Atwater, MPHc, Tobacco Studies Program, Department of Health Services, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA
Ragan Hart, MS, PhDc, Institute for Public Health Genetics, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA
Colin Maloney, MPHc, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA
Monica Ng, BSc, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Abigail Halperin, MD, MPH, University of Washington, School of Medicine and Public Health, UW Tobacco Studies Program, Seattle, WA
Introduction: Tobacco companies are present at many university career centers as contributors and recruiters, misleading students and administrators by touting opportunities to “improve world health” and “help prevent kids from smoking.” Their participation in recruitment activities normalizes them as legitimate, socially responsible businesses, obscures the true nature of their industry, and provides direct access to young adults, their primary marketing target. University of Washington (UW) students, staff, and faculty led a campaign to raise awareness about tobacco companies' harms to public health, and challenge their presence on the UW campus. Methods: University advocates observed and documented tobacco company recruitment activities, investigated congruence with university policies and regulations, engaged student government, and met with decision-makers to educate them and assess barriers to and facilitators of reducing or eliminating tobacco industry presence. Results: Awareness of tobacco companies' influence within the University was increased through student government involvement, social media, articles and letters demonstrating how tobacco industry activities were in conflict with the University's mission and ethical standards. The campaign helped students make informed decisions when considering employment opportunities and extended a ban on advertising of tobacco products in the school newspaper to include tobacco industry recruitment ads. Conclusions: Tobacco industry influence at colleges is widespread yet subtle. While the trend is towards tobacco-free campus policies, the issue of tobacco company recruitment through university career centers has rarely been challenged. This case study can provide guidance to other colleges and universities who wish to reduce the influence of tobacco companies on their campuses.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Identify strategies for investigating and documenting tobacco industry presence and activities at campus career centers. Identify university stakeholders and analyze their interests. Describe strategies for raising awareness about and challenging tobacco industry presence on college campuses. Assess potential barriers to limiting or eliminating tobacco industry presence in college career centers.

Keyword(s): Tobacco Control, College Students

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been involved in tobacco control advocacy, working on several projects targeting youth audiences in specific states. I am further interested in raising awareness about the health effects of smoking and tobacco use, in addition to challenging tobacco industry presence on college campuses.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.