Implementation of the Tobacco-Free Campus Policy on College Campuses

Evidence from a Survey of College Students in Beijing

Published in: Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 2016

Posted on RAND.org on May 25, 2016

by Min Gong, Zhu-Yuan Liang, Yang-Yang Zhang, William G. Shadel, Lei Zhou, Jiaying Xiao

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Research Question

  1. How well is China's Tobacco Free Campus Policy being implemented on college campuses in Beijing?

OBJECTIVE: China issued a nationwide "Tobacco-Free Campus" Policy (TFCP) in January 2014, but it is unclear how well it was implemented across China's 2138 college campuses. We conducted an Internet survey of Beijing college students to evaluate the implementation of the TFCP in Beijing. METHODS: An Internet survey of 711 students from 37 colleges in Beijing was conducted in May 2015. Respondents reported on secondhand smoking (SHS) exposure on campus, knowledge on and actions taken against SHS, and tobacco marketing exposure on campus. RESULTS: Almost 90% of respondents were exposed to SHS on campus at least once in the past month. Approximately 37% of nonsmokers and 61% of smokers reported seeing a teacher smoking, and the majority of both smokers and nonsmokers reported seeing a classmate smoking in campus buildings. The likelihood and location of SHS exposure depend on the participant's demographics and own smoking behavior. Nonsmokers were more likely to be aware of the health risk of SHS than smokers. Although most participants were aware of the harms, only 13% and 9% tried to stop their last SHS exposure indoors and outdoors, respectively. Forty-seven students from 14 colleges noticed tobacco marketing activities on campus. CONCLUSIONS: The TFCP on Chinese college campuses was only partially enforced, particularly with regard to SHS. IMPLICATIONS: On January 29, 2014, the Chinese Ministry of Education issued the TFCP. A major barrier to effective tobacco control in China is the difficulty in implementing policies issued by the central government. At this point, it is unclear whether the TFCP was successfully implemented on China's college campuses. Major tobacco use monitoring efforts do not include college students. The present research describes the current tobacco control environment on Beijing's college campuses 15 months after the TFCP took effect. To our knowledge, this is the first paper in the English literature on tobacco environment and exposure (rather than a prevalence survey) of college students in China.

Key Findings

  • Almost all respondents were exposed to secondhand smoke (SHS) on campus at least once in the month preceding the survey.
  • Both non-smokers and smokers reported seeing a teacher or classmate smoking in campus buildings.
  • The likelihood and location of SHS exposure depended on the participant's gender, level of study, and own smoking behavior.
  • Non-smokers were more likely to be aware of the health risk of SHS than smokers, but they seldom tried to stop exposure to SHS.
  • Tobacco marketing activities, such as free samples of cigarettes and advertising in public spaces, was noticed by almost 50 participants across 14 campuses.

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