Frequently Asked Questions

Weren’t we already tobacco-free? 

Yes, first tobacco-free campus policy went into effect on January 1, 2012. It was updated on July 1, 2017 to include the prohibition of e-cigarettes. After collecting surveys from both employees and students, conducting two qualitative research projects, and collecting over 11, 500 cigarette butts on Earth Day 2019, it was clear that there were gaps in the policy that still left students, faculty and community members exposed to secondhand smoke.

When did the new and updated 100% Tobacco-Free policy go into effect? 

On August 1, 2020, the policy was strengthened to include more definite compliance rules, a clear description of all tobacco products, a commitment to shared responsibility and a commitment to providing ongoing tobacco cessation communications for all students and employees.  Our policy now meets the national criteria set for high quality 100% Tobacco-Free campus policies.  We now join the list of 2,490 smokefree campus sites across this country and 16 colleges/universities in Minnesota that have this distinction.

What does “Tobacco-Free” mean?

Tobacco-free means the following are not allowed on campus property:

  1. Any product containing, made of, or derived from tobacco or nicotine that is intended for human consumption or is likely to be consumed, whether inhaled, absorbed, or ingested by any other means, including but not limited to, a cigarette, a cigar, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, snuff, or snus. 
  2. Any electronic smoking device as defined in this policy and any substances that may be aerosolized or vaporized by such device whether or not the substance contains nicotine; or
  3. Any component, part, or accessory of 1) or 2), whether or not any of these contains tobacco or nicotine, including but not limited to filters, rolling papers, blunt or hemp wraps, hookahs and pipes.

 Who decided on this policy?

The most recent Tobacco-Free policy update was approved through the same year-long policy change process that all campus policies undergo managed by the University Policy Consultation and Approval Committee.  A drafted update is first posted, and the university community is notified of the drafts and welcomed to provide input throughout the entire school year.  For this policy Minnesota State Mankato received an external grant from the American Cancer Society to form a multidisciplinary task force, which voted to call themselves “Mavericks for Clean Air”, which met monthly from 2019-2020 to study the issue. The Mavericks for Clean Air group submitted two consensus statements that spelled out their recommendations for updating the TF campus policy. 

Whom does this policy affect?

This policy applies to all students, faculty, staff, contractors, vendors and visitors. All forms of tobacco are prohibited, in all places, at all times.

How will people know that tobacco use is prohibited?

Notices bearing the message “Tobacco-Free” will be posted at major university vehicular, pedestrian and building entrances.  Whether or not a sign is displayed in a particular spot, all university property is 100% Tobacco-Free.  The policy will also be communicated through the Tobacco-Free pages on our website, social media channels, student and employee handbooks, emails, new student orientation, and appropriate campus gatherings.

Why did Minnesota State University, Mankato go Tobacco-Free?

  1. Health and Academic Achievement.  Minnesota State Mankato is committed to providing a clean, safe, and inclusive environment. Tobacco use is a major cause of preventable disease and death and associated with lower academic achievement. The United States Surgeon General has stated there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure. Secondhand smoke is the third leading cause of preventable death in this country, killing 53,000 nonsmokers in the U.S. each year.
  2. We now align with state law on e-cigarettes. E-cigarette use has escalated in young adult populations during 2015-2020 in the United States. The Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act was amended August 1, 2019 to further protect the public and expanded the definition of smoking to include e-cigarettes.  E-cigarettes are now prohibited by state law for use indoors and closely resemble and purposefully mimic the act of smoking.  Besides nicotine, electronic smoking devices can contain harmful ingredients, including ultrafine particles inhaled deep into the lungs, flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease, volatile organic compounds and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead.
  3. Respect for equity and inclusion. With this policy update, Minnesota State Mankato aims to break barriers for achievement in two ways:
    • We guarantee the right of nonsmokers to breathe clean air, while recognizing that the need to breathe smoke-free air (both secondhand and thirdhand smoke) must have priority over the desire to smoke, and
    • We aim to encourage a fair, productive living/learning environment for all members of our campus community, including those living with asthma, other respiratory diseases such as Covid-19, challenged immune systems, and those with allergies to environmental smoke. In addition, a just society ensures that no person – regardless of race or ethnicity – is exposed again and again to things we know are harmful. Targeted, aggressive marketing practices of tobacco-products to certain groups of people in have contributed to more tobacco-related illnesses in some than others. Candy, fruit and menthol flavors have long been used to lure youth into addiction. Rural, lower-income and communities of color have experienced a constant flow of tobacco advertising, discounts and displays. With a 100% Tobacco-Free campus policy we will advance equity and provide an inclusive environment for all.
  4. Respect for our public property.  We are called to be wise stewards of our public property and aim to eliminate the annual cost of tobacco waste clean-up, fires and damage to flooring and our landscaping, which is estimated to be $60,000 a year.

With what information did the Task Force and University Policy Committee rely on to make this policy update?

The 100% Tobacco-Free campus policy update was based on:

  • a wealth of research documenting the health risks associated with tobacco use and secondhand cigarette and e-cigarettes smoke exposure (Surveys of both employees and students in 2019 revealed the majority reported being exposed to tobacco smoke while on our campus),
  • overwhelming evidence that tobacco use and reduced academic achievement are associated.
  • assessments of regional and national trends in cigarette and e-cigarette usage trends, morbidity and mortality rates,
  • alignment of a 2019 Minnesota state law prohibiting use of e-cigarettes indoors, and
  • input from the campus community (A total of 88% of employees, and 79% of students agreed or strongly agreed that colleges have a responsibility to lessen the risk of tobacco addiction by adopting policies that discourage tobacco product use).

What are the advantages of the 100% Tobacco-Free Policy update?

Why can’t there be designated smoking areas instead of making the whole campus 100% Tobacco-Free?

Previous smoking policy bans that restrict smoking within fifteen feet of buildings have not been successful because people tend to migrate and congregate closer to the building, especially with inclement weather. Furthermore, offering designated smoking areas does not support Minnesota State Mankato’s goal of creating a healthy, clean and safe environment that is inclusive and equitable for the entire campus. A 100% Tobacco-Free campus will also reduce clean-up costs, which average $60,000 per year.

Secondhand smoke is a class A carcinogen and the chemicals left on clothes, hair, backpacks, papers – all are carried inside with the smoker. In fact, residue from cigarettes can be found in a room for up to 6 months after someone has used tobacco. Even brief exposure to smoke, as one is  walking into a building can cause or exacerbate asthma attacks, allergies and bronchitis. In our student tobacco survey open-ended question, several students complained of having to live with roommates who use tobacco or e-cigarettes in their room and of being annoyed that they had to take an exam sitting next to someone who was recently smoking during the break outside the classroom. 

Creating smoking areas sends a message that tobacco use is acceptable on campus; rather, because tobacco use is associated with reduced academic achievement, the university’s updated policy promotes healthy lifestyles and provides assistance for students and employees who are ready to quit and for those who need to manage their addiction symptoms while on campus.

If we become a Tobacco-Free campus, won’t enrollment decrease?  And/or people will not want to work here?

Actually 2,500  institutions of higher education have now adopted Tobacco-Free policies around the nation, and many are now in the process. Being smoke and Tobacco-Free is simply becoming the norm. To date, there is no evidence from over 2,500 campuses howing decreased enrollment as a result of any change in Tobacco-Free policy. Furthermore, there have been no reports of any school suffering a reduction in staff due to Tobacco-Free policies.

The perception that "many international students smoke" and worrythng that they won’t come to our university - may be based on stereotypes and the fact that we often notice the behavior of people different from ourselves more than we notice the behavior of people who look like us.  And, it’s also important to consider the influence that the Tobacco Industry has around the globe, especially in areas where there is minimal public health infrastructure. We may indeed, see higher tobacco use in some international students when they apply to the university. The Kearney Center for International Student Services has committed to educating international students before they get here and offering them a wide range of free cessation services.

How does adopting a 100% Tobacco-Free policy clean up the environment?

  • Environmental tobacco in cigarettes and e-cigarettes exposes bystanders to numerous harmful chemicals. The majority of Minnesota State Mankato employees and students surveyed have reported exposure to with smoke.
  • On Earth Day in April 2019, 65 student and employee volunteers documented non-compliance on our campus by collecting over 11,400 cigarette butts, cigarillo tips, packaging waste, e-cigarette waste and batteries in a three hour time frame.
  • Cigarette butts and e-cigarettes devices are a fire hazard and increase university maintenance expenses. We at Minnesota State Mankato have had numerous dumpster fires and excessive costs related to tobacco waste clean-up, estimated to cost $60,000 per year.
  • Cigarette filters and many e-cigarette elements are non-biodegradable and can take decades to decompose. Documented vape battery explosions have promoted the FDA to create a webpage and consumer cigar reporting portal dedicated to “Tips to Help Avoid “Vape” Battery Explosions.
  • The waste left on the ground can be eaten by dogs, birds and other animals, causing injury or death.
  • Chemicals (e.g. hydrogen, cyanide, arsenic, etc.) in cigarette butts harm plants and animals by leaking into the soil and water.

Are students really at that much risk?

College is a critical time in young adult development during which many lifestyle habits are formed. We have an unprecedented opportunity to support sustained healthy behaviors among students. Nearly 100% of adults who smoke daily started smoking when they were 26 or younger.

Why are e-cigarettes prohibited in the policy?

Yes, the e-cigarettes are considered by the FDA to be a tobacco product. This is also a Minnesota law; the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act which prohibits smoking tobacco indoors was amended effective August 1, 2019 to include to the prohibition of e-cigarette use indoors. Little is known about the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes, but short-term effects can be serious, as a nation-wide outbreak of serious lung injury and death occurred in 2019.  Many e-cigarette ingredients are known to cause lung and cardiac inflammation, cancer, cell damage and fatalities. As of July 2020,  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that …”e-cigarette, or e-cigarettes, products (nicotine or THC-containing) should never be used by youths, young adults, or women who are pregnant. Nicotine exposure during youth and young adulthood can cause addiction and harm the developing brain. Nicotine affects brain development, which is not fully formed until age 25.  We must consider being compliant with state law AND the protection of our faculty, staff, students, vendors, volunteers and visitors.

Why not allow people to smoke or use e-cigarettes outdoors? Is there really a health risk?

Yes, there really is a health risk. The Surgeon General has concluded there is no safe level of secondhand cigarette smoke. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 substances, several of which are known to cause cancer in humans and animals. Outdoor levels of secondhand smoke,  especially in partially enclosed entrances to buildings, can rival indoor levels. In addition secondhand smoke travels indoors on the clothes, backpacks, and papers of the user.

Many Americans assume that e-cigarette aerosol is safe.  The Surgeon General states that E-cigarette aerosol (whether it contains either nicotine or THC)  is not harmless; it also contains harmful chemicals, including nicotine, vitamin E acetate, heavy metals, as well as volatile and carcinogenic compounds.  

What areas does the 100% Tobacco-Free policy cover? 

The use of any tobacco products is prohibited on all university grounds. The boundaries include any property owned, operated or leased by Minnesota State Mankato. This includes and is not limited to all buildings and structures; sidewalks; parking lots; walkways; attached parking structures; and university owned, operated or leased vehicles. This policy also applies to most public through streets that are within campus boundaries.

Please reference the Minnesota State Mankato’s boundary map.  University community members are expected to respect neighbors of the university and refrain from depositing cigarette butts and other waste on our neighbor’s property.

Are people permitted to use tobacco products at tailgates, sporting events and social events that occur on Minnesota State Mankato property?

Tobacco use is prohibited on university owned, operated and leased property. Minnesota State Mankato recognizes that becoming 100% Tobacco-Free requires a culture shift for some and that it may take time for the entire community to adjust to the university’s policy. We encourage students, faculty and staff to take an active role in championing this effort by increasing awareness of the 100% Tobacco-Free policy at events they may attend. See “TF Policy Implementation Guide” for suggestions.

What should I do if I see someone using tobacco on campus? 

Research shows that compliance is best when all members of the campus community share the responsibility for communication. Anyone who observes a possible violation may courteously inform the individual of the 100% Tobacco-Free campus policy. If you feel comfortable approaching the individual or group, be respectful and direct. Please approach the violator in a kind, compassionate way. Remember to show empathy at some level, as addiction to nicotine can be powerful, and withdrawal effects can be uncomfortable. You might say, “I want to make you aware that we are a 100% Tobacco-Free campus, meaning that tobacco products are prohibited on our grounds. We would appreciate it if you would not use tobacco products while visiting our campus.” OR “If you need to smoke or use tobacco products you will need to leave the campus.”  You may also offer them information regarding our local and campus cessation resources. For more ideas on how we can take collective responsibility for enforcing this policy, see our TF Implementation Guide.

What do I do if my request for someone to stop using tobacco is not effective?

Our individual responsibility is to educate people about the policy. If you choose to approach someone and are met with resistance, you need not press the issue. Just simply walk away.

How will Minnesota State Mankato enforce the 100% Tobacco-Free policy?

Specific consequences for students and employees are outlined in the policy. However, the university’s vision for the enforcement of the 100% Tobacco-Free campus policy is that it is the shared responsibility of our campus community to help enforce the policy.  Individuals are encouraged and empowered to respectfully inform others about the policy in an ongoing effort to support individuals to be Tobacco-Free, improve individual health and encourage a culture of compliance; however, confirmed, chronic violations are subject to appropriate disciplinary action as specified in the policy.


Employee-specific questions

How will the university handle employees who do not want to stop the use of tobacco products?

Faculty, staff and students are not required to stop using tobacco products. However, they will not be permitted to use tobacco products on any university property. Like regulations that prohibit smoking indoors, individuals must find ways to manage their need for nicotine in ways that do not involve using tobacco on campus.

Aren’t the problems mostly with students smoking on campus?

This policy applies to all students, faculty, staff, contractors, vendors and visitors. The Mavericks for Clean Air task force, along with external experts who work in the field of tobacco policy, felt strongly that we cannot have a policy that targets only one group.

Regardless of who has currently violated the policy, recent surveys of both employee and students revealed that a 10% of students and 8% of employees report using cigarettes on a daily basis. These surveys had acceptable response rates and were representative of the populations in terms of age and sex. These statistics align well with cigarette usage in Minnesota and our country as a whole. In the same surveys, the high majority of employees and students reported being exposed to tobacco smoke while on our campus.

After conducting two qualitative research projects where students were surveyed and participated in focus groups, and collecting over 11,500 cigarette butts on Earth Day 2019 in a 3-hour time period, it was clear that there were gaps in the policy that still left students, faculty and community members exposed to secondhand smoke. 

In addition, Minnesota State University-Mankato spends an average of $60,000 per year on tobacco waste clean-up, fires and damage to flooring and our landscaping.  In the end, it is not productive to point fingers as to who exactly is causing the damage; the policy must apply to all.


Options for Tobacco Users

Are there resources to help employees and students quit using tobacco?

We realize quitting tobacco can be rough. Nicotine is one of the most highly addictive substances that works by altering the balance of two chemicals called dopamine and noradrenaline in your brain. To determine if you are addicted, see the Mayo Clinic’s webpage on Nicotine Dependence.  We believe that asking and accepting help is a sign of strength.  Minnesota State Mankato encourages and supports students, faculty and staff who request assistance in eliminating dependence on the use of tobacco products. We are committed to helping you with your quitting efforts.

We offer:
  1. An updated, comprehensive list of free evidence-based tobacco cessation resources by going to the Minnesota State Mankato website.
  2. Free Quit Kits are available for employees and students, thanks to a Tobacco-Free campus policy grant from the American Cancer Society. The kits contain helpful items that have been shown to help deal with cravings, triggers and stimulation.
    • From now until August 31, 2020, Quit Kits can be sent to work or home addresses using US Postal Service at no charge by requesting onehere
    • Beginning September 1, 2020, Student Health Services at Minnesota State Mankato will make Quit Kits available. Students, faculty, and staff can pick up a free Quit Kit at the Health Education Office, Room 100 in Carkoski Commons OR they can request delivery to an on-campus office via intracampus mail by emailing Lori.Marti@mnsu.edu.
  3. Low-cost nicotine replacement therapies available for students to purchase at the Student Health Services Pharmacy

I am interested in tobacco treatment resources, but am not an employee or student at the Minnesota State Mankato. What resources are available to me?

Minnesota State Mankato values the health and well-being of everyone who uses our facilities. If you use tobacco products and would like to quit, discuss with your health care provider which approach may work best for you. Most of the specific resources listed on our Help Quitting webpage are also available to the general public.

Can I go off campus during my breaks to smoke?

Employees can leave campus during scheduled breaks. Hourly staff should be mindful of the length of their breaks per with their unit’s attendance policy. Please respect Minnesota State Mankato’s neighbors.  University Administration has received several complaints about employees and students leaving cigarette butts and waste on their property. Employees should not trespass, loiter or litter on public or private property to smoke during breaks and should be aware of the Minnesota State Mankato Campus Boundary Map.

If you don’t have time to walk off campus during your break, check out the cessation resources available to faculty, staff and student employees. Tobacco cessation services are covered through most health insurance plans and we highly recommend that those who want to quit talk with their healthcare provider about the many options available. Explore which quit method is right for you. In addition, a list of evidence-based cessation resources, including FREE Quit Kits, are available on our website

Can I extend my break or change the time of my break so I have time to walk off campus to smoke?

Breaks are usually timed to ensure your department duties and coordination with other staff are met. The length and time of breaks cannot be changed to accommodate tobacco use. Refer to departmental policies and/or supervisors regarding options, if applicable. It is important to consistently and fairly apply policies and business practices.

What about my “right” to smoke”?

There is no such thing as a constitutional right to use nicotine since the U.S. Constitution does not extend special protection to smokers.  Smoking is not a specially protected right under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution. The fundamental right to privacy does not apply to smoking. Smokers are not a specially protected category of people under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Please refer to the legal brief, published by the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium.

Does Minnesota State Mankato have the right to tell me I can’t use tobacco products on campus property?

Yes. The university has the authority and responsibility to establish policies that positively affect their property.  The 100% Tobacco-Free campus policy does not prohibit tobacco use; it merely establishes where usage can and cannot occur. Tobacco is legal for adults to purchase and consume; this policy prohibits use on our campus.

Please note that the majority of our campus community strongly supports this policy.  Surveys of both employees (2020) and students (2019) revealed that 88% of employees and 79% of students agreed or strongly agreed that colleges have a responsibility to lessen the risk of tobacco addiction by adopting policies that discourage tobacco product use. 

Can I use tobacco in my personal vehicle while on university property?

Parking lots and parking garages owned, operated and leased by Minnesota State Mankato are covered by the policy. Tobacco use is prohibited in any vehicle parked on university property.

How can they tell me what to do in my car?

Secondhand smoke is a Class A carcinogen and the chemicals left on clothes, hair, purses, backpacks, papers – all are carried inside with the smoker. In fact, residue from cigarettes can be found in a room for up to 6 months after someone has used tobacco. Even brief exposure to the chemicals that are carried with the person can cause or exacerbate asthma attacks, allergies and bronchitis. There is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure; even brief exposure can be harmful to health.  Since 1964, approximately 2,500,000 nonsmokers have died from health problems caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.  The only way to fully protect nonsmokers is to eliminate smoking in all homes, worksites, and public places.  In our student tobacco survey, several students complained of having to live with roommates who use tobacco or e-cigarettes in their room and of being annoyed that they had to take an exam sitting next to someone who was recently smoking during the break outside the classroom.  

Is it OK to use smokeless tobacco, such as chew, since there’s no secondhand smoke involved?

All forms of tobacco are prohibited. First, establishing a comprehensive policy that includes all tobacco types is more equitable, easier to enforce, and has better health outcomes. The negative health consequences of chewing tobacco, or “snuff” are well established. The makers of smokeless tobacco would have people believe that their products are “safer” than cigarettes and can even be used as an aid in quitting tobacco, but this is not a safe alternative to smoking.

The second reason that smokeless tobacco is included in the Tobacco-Free policy is that smokeless tobacco use creates annoying waste and byproducts that are spilled both outdoors and indoors. These spills create more cleanup work for campus maintenance staff, cost us money to replace carpeting and flooring, and the chemicals found in tobacco spit harms the environment.   

Where can I see the Minnesota State Mankato Tobacco-Free campus policy?

The updated 100% Tobacco-Free campus policy. For a timeline and more detail on the process, history and background of the 100% tobacco-free Minnesota State Mankato policy.