Original paper

Journal of Community Health

, Volume 35, Issue 5, pp 503-511

First online:

Smoke-free Laws and Smoking and Drinking Among College Students

  • Ellen J. HahnAffiliated withUniversity of Kentucky College of Nursing and College of Public Health Email author 
  • , Mary Kay RayensAffiliated withUniversity of Kentucky College of Nursing and College of Public Health
  • , S. Lee RidnerAffiliated withUniversity of Louisville School of Nursing
  • , Karen M. ButlerAffiliated withUniversity of Kentucky College of Nursing
  • , Mei ZhangAffiliated withUniversity of Kentucky College of Nursing
  • , Ruth R. StatenAffiliated withUniversity of Kentucky College of Nursing and University Health Service

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Little is known about the impact of smoke-free legislation on smoking and drinking alcohol among college students. The purpose was to examine whether strength and duration of municipal smoke-free laws are associated with cigarette and alcohol use among college students. Full-time undergraduates from two Southeastern universities participated in mailed (Site A) or electronic (Site B) surveys assessing tobacco and alcohol use and other risk behaviors pre and post comprehensive municipal smoke-free laws (Site A, N = 1,366. Site B, N = 1,404). The first cohort at each site participated prior to a municipal smoke-free law in the community. The second survey was conducted post-law (Site A, 3.5 years, Site B, 8 months). Past 30-day cigarette and alcohol use and other demographic and personal characteristics were assessed. At Site A, controlling for demographic differences and current alcohol use, the odds of being a current smoker were 32% lower post-law (28% pre-law vs. 19% post-law; odds ratio = 0.68, P = 0.02). At Site B, with demographics and drinking status in the model, the decrease in smoking rate from pre- to post-law was not significant. At both sites, controlling for demographics and current smoking status, change in the likelihood of drinking was not significant. Comprehensive smoke-free laws in the surrounding community may reduce smoking rates among college students who live, work and recreate there, particularly after the laws are well-established. While alcohol prevalence is very high among college students, enacting smoke-free legislation was not associated with alcohol use.


Smoke-free legislation College students Cigarette smoking Alcohol use