Smoke-Filled Homes, Schools, Colleges, Cars, and Jobs Put Young People At Risk

To create a Tobacco-Free Generation, we must ensure that everyone breathes smokefree air.


The 1994 Surgeon General’s Report Preventing Tobacco Use Among Young People was one of the first to document the benefits of smokefree laws and policies on youth smoking behavior. It noted that policies in schools, workplaces, and communities that restrict smoking are effective in discouraging youth from trying tobacco. Subsequent research further documented that youth access laws and tax increases can be important tools in a comprehensive youth tobacco prevention strategy, but the most effective program to prevent or reduce tobacco consumption at all age levels is the creation of smokefree homes, workplaces, and public places.

Smokefree Laws Support a Smokefree Generation

An 11-year longitudinal study published in 2015 in JAMA Pediatrics quantified the effect of 100% smokefree laws on the smoking behavior of adolescents and young adults. Results showed that smokefree workplace laws were associated with significantly lower odds of initiating smoking and helped to reduce tobacco usage among current smokers: “The effect of smoke-free workplace laws on smoking initiation is equivalent to a $1.57 (in 2007 dollars) tax increase. Smokefree bar laws are associated with lower rates of current smoking, as well as a decrease in the number of days reported smoking among current smokers.”

When we work to protect the rights of nonsmokers, regardless of age, we send the message that smoking is simply not socially acceptable. Working to promote nonsmoking as the norm, community by community, is the most effective means to reduce smoking by youth. There are several reasons why putting the emphasis on smokefree air works as a youth prevention strategy:

  • When youth are not singled out for special treatment, they have less to rebel against. Tobacco (or e-cigarettes or even marijuana) is not dangled in front of them as a forbidden fruit, only to be enjoyed by adults.
  • Effective smokefree air policies result in fewer people modeling smoking behavior. It establishes smokefree environments and non-smoking as the cultural social norm.
  • Smokefree air policies focus attention where it needs to be focused – on worker and patron health and safety – not on the issue of age.

ANR Foundation supports a comprehensive approach to tobacco control, with our primary focus being on smokefree laws. Smokefree laws garner the greatest public health benefit by preventing exposure of an entire community or state to a known carcinogen.


The tobacco companies cannot legally market directly to kids, so what’s the next best age group to target their promotional pitches? Young adults, of course.

To the tobacco industry, young adults are a perfect target. A large proportion of young adults (18 to 25-year olds) are away from home for the first time, seeking independence and autonomy, and most importantly, they are legal adults, acknowledged by society as being able to make their own decisions. Young adults are the prime targets for recruitment. In recent years, the tobacco industry’s special attention has worked: young adults have the highest smoking rate at 40 percent.

Tobacco companies spend more than a million dollars an hour in this country alone to market their products. They wouldn’t spend that amount of money if it didn’t pay out in new addicted smokers. Even now, tobacco product advertising and promotions still entice far too many young people to start using tobacco.

Young adults are powerful and can also make the biggest impact for health by standing up against Big Tobacco by helping to pass strong tobacco-free and smokefree policies.


Make your voice heard! Voting for smokefree ballot initiatives is a way to have a big impact on your community’s health. The good news is that registering to vote has never been easier!

Ask your campus to go smokefree! If your educational institution isn’t yet a tobacco-free campus, help get a policy passed for 100% smokefree on campus grounds. Visit our list of smokefree campuses. Smokefree laws and tobacco-free policies on college campuses are important tobacco control tools to prevent young people from smoking. They not only protect bystanders from exposure to toxic secondhand smoke, but they also contribute to less smoking among adolescents and young adults by creating a non-smoking social norm.

Take a stand for smokefree air! Make a donation to ANR Foundation to help us continue our mission.