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Message from Chancellor Coombe

May 28, 2009

Dear members of the University community:

As many of you may know, the DU Tobacco Task Force has been at work over the course of this year gathering opinion and data concerning the use of tobacco products at DU. The Task Force was not assembled by the administration of the University, but rather is a group led by Dr. Sam Alexander (director of Student Health Services) and his colleagues in partnership with student leaders, and individual faculty and staff members.

The objective of the Task Force has been to develop and recommend new policies governing the use of tobacco on campus, focusing on the health and well-being of the University community. Our present policy includes a ban on smoking within all University buildings, and outside of buildings within 25 feet of entrances and exits.

This past winter, the Task Force presented me with its recommendations, along with a supporting petition signed by nearly 1,900 members of the University community. I have also received many letters from individuals voicing their opinions concerning the proposed new policies. The Task Force also presented its recommendations to the Faculty Senate, AUSA, GSAC and other groups. While the proposal was endorsed by AUSA, it was not endorsed by GSAC or the Faculty Senate. I offer my sincere thanks to everyone who was engaged with this process at any level this year; together, you are clearly a substantial proportion of the campus community.

The proposal originally presented to me called for a complete ban on the use or possession of all tobacco products on campus, and included recommendations concerning tobacco education and enforcement of the proposed policy. I asked for additional data concerning tobacco use among specific campus populations and documentation concerning the health hazards of secondhand tobacco smoke. These data were provided to me in subsequent meetings.

In considering the proposed full tobacco ban, it is important to note that while the University has rules and regulations governing the conduct of its students, faculty, and staff, and policies in keeping with current law, it does not regulate legal personal choice unless such choice has a deleterious effect on the community as a whole.

The University uses only fair trade coffee products in its food and beverage services, but it does not require that individuals purchase only these products. It has divested from its investment portfolio companies that do business with the government of Sudan, but it does not require that individual members of the community do so. It purchases nearly 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, but does not require that individuals living off campus do so. It encourages the use of public transportation through the Eco Pass and our new bike-sharing program, but does not require students or staff to use these amenities. At DU, personal choice is a part of personal growth. Our minds and hearts are shaped by the values of our community, but are not regulated by them.

That being said, a complete ban on the use or possession of legal tobacco products among the DU community is not reasonable. On the other hand, secondhand tobacco smoke is a clear public health issue, one that lies at the root of our current policies, and it is reasonable to address both the Task Force proposal and our current policy in that light. Data suggest that secondhand smoke can have adverse health effects within a distance of 25 feet, and in considering the Task Force proposal, I asked that our office of Facilities Management consider the impact of extending the current ban on smoking within buildings to areas within 25 feet of our major outdoor walkways and congregation areas. This analysis indicated that if such an extension were to be implemented, there would be very few areas of the campus remaining where smoking would be permitted.

As a result of this consideration, the University's policy concerning the smoking of tobacco products on campus will change effective Jan. 1, 2010. From that date forward, our policy will be that the smoking of tobacco products is banned from all indoor and outdoor areas of campus, within a distance of 25 feet of the campus perimeter.

A special exception will be granted for events at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts, and the Ritchie Center for Sports and Wellness, as these are venues used by the public at large. For these two venues, both of which are located on the campus perimeter, smoking will continue to be banned within the buildings but designated smoking areas will be made available outside the buildings, at an appropriate distance from entrances and exits, during public events.

This new policy has been recommended by the Buildings and Grounds Committee of the Board of Trustees and approved by the Executive Committee of the Board. Our department of Facilities Management will install signage appropriate to the policy throughout the campus over the next several months. If you have questions concerning the new policy or its implementation and enforcement, please contact the office of Vice Chancellor Craig Woody at 303-871-3588, or at

Once again, I offer my thanks to the members of the Tobacco Task Force and to all the members of our community who have so thoughtfully engaged in this process.

Robert Coombe

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