Western Washington University Receives Truth Initiative Grant for Going Smoke- and Vape-Free

Western Washington University has been awarded a grant from Truth Initiative® – the national public health organization dedicated to achieving a culture where all young people reject smoking, vaping and nicotine–to adopt a 100% tobacco and vape-free campus policy. Western is one of ten colleges and universities to receive this Truth Initiative award as part of a national movement among students, faculty, and administrators to address smoking, vaping and nicotine use at college campuses throughout the U.S.

“The grant and support from Truth Initiative will support our students, staff and faculty to design and implement a tobacco and vape-free initiative that makes our campus environment healthier for all by promoting both physical and mental well-being,” said Gwen Koenig, Western's Substance Abuse Prevention coordinator. “We’re excited to hit the ground running alongside our community and our partners at Truth Initiative, to develop a plan for a tobacco and vape-free campus and show that our college is leading the charge in helping our students, faculty, and staff choose lives free from nicotine.”

Over the next 17 months, Western will form a campus task force to assess smoking, vaping and tobacco use behaviors and attitudes, identify a cessation support plan for current smokers and vapers and develop a tobacco and vape-free campus policy. Two to four student leaders will also spearhead educational efforts to engage and mobilize their fellow students, building a movement to become a tobacco/vape-free campus. Since 2015, Truth Initiative’s Tobacco/Vape-Free College Program has funded more than 230 colleges and college systems to become 100% tobacco and vape-free, protecting more than 1.4 million students, faculty, and staff each year.

"While Western became a smoke- and vape-free campus in 2023, this funding allows us to hire students to advance that message throughout our community and help us all recognize the urgency of addressing the rising prevalence of e-cigarette use, which is linked to increased depression and reports of poorer physical health outcomes," said Sislena Ledbetter, Western's Associate Vice President for Counseling, Health and Wellness Services. "We have three student leaders headed to Washington, D.C. April 4 -6 with CWC staff to better learn how to implement evidence-based practices on campus, which will underscore our commitment to a healthier more sustainable environment where clean air and better health prevail."

A public health threat

Tobacco and vape-free policies on college campuses are more important than ever. E-cigarette use among young people remains a serious public health threat with 11% of 18–24-year-olds reporting vaping nicotine, according to the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey. Young people who use e-cigarettes are also more likely to start smoking cigarettes than their peers who do not vape. According to the CDC, 5.3% of 18–24-year-olds smoke cigarettes and 4.3% use two or more tobacco products.

“We are grateful for our dedicated college partners across the country who are working to make campus environments healthier places to live, work and learn,” said Amy Taylor, chief of Community Engagement at Truth Initiative. “College campuses are critical to preventing young adults from starting vaping, smoking, and nicotine use, and providing a space for those already using tobacco products to quit. We know that by supporting institutions with the tools and resources to create tobacco/vape-free policies, we are helping to realize a future where young people reject smoking, vaping, and nicotine use.”

Truth Initiative continues its support for young people to live healthy, nicotine-free lives with programs like This is Quitting, a free and anonymous text message quit vaping program. A randomized clinical trial published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that young adults aged 18-24 who utilized This is Quitting had nearly a 40% higher likelihood of quitting compared to a control group. Helping more than 700,000 young people on their journey to quit vaping nicotine, This is Quitting is the largest quit vaping program in the country. Young people can join for free by texting DITCHVAPE to 88709.