Examining enforcement of tobacco policies on college campuses across Texas

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2022-05

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College age young adults have the highest prevalence of tobacco use among all age groups. One approach to address tobacco use in this population is the implementation of tobacco-free policies on college campuses. Colleges have made great progress in implementing these policies, yet enforcement remains problematic. Research is sparse on the success of campus tobacco policy enforcement efforts, and on effective forms of enforcement. Little is known about how students and college administrators perceive enforcement approaches, or how likely they are to impact tobacco use on college campuses. The purpose of this dissertation was to examine the role of tobacco policy enforcement approaches in curbing tobacco use on college campuses across Texas. Study I was a quantitative investigation of college students’ perceptions of tobacco policy enforcement and tobacco use on campuses. Data were collected via a tobacco college survey. Participants were a convenience sample of 14,308 students attending one of 16 Texas colleges in Texas. Results from hierarchical logistic linear modeling indicated that students’ perceived success was significantly and inversely associated with three tobacco use dependent variables; witness tobacco use on campus, tobacco use on campus, and current tobacco use (p <0.001). Results examining which type of tobacco policy enforcement approach (social, formal, both social and formal, none, or I don’t know) was significantly associated with the three dependent variables were mixed; however, each type of campus tobacco enforcement approach was significantly different than the reference group “none” for witnessing individuals using tobacco on campus and for current tobacco use. Study II was a qualitative inquiry providing a deeper examination of campus tobacco policy enforcement strategies through the perspective of tobacco prevention program administrators. A qualitative case study methodology was used to examine administrators’ perspectives by triangulating three sources of data; semi-structured interviews, campus tobacco use prevalence, and tobacco policy strength. Participants were a purposive sample of 11 tobacco prevention program administrators from 11 colleges in Texas. Results from a content analysis conducted using Dedoose indicated that the social approach was noted as the most common type of campus tobacco policy enforcement approach. Participants also reported that the social approach was successful, but more than half of these colleges had student tobacco use prevalences that were greater than the average for all colleges in this study. Two colleges utilizing a combination of social and formal approaches had low campus tobacco prevalence and were perceived as being successful whereas one college with no enforcement approaches had high campus tobacco prevalence, and enforcement efforts were seen as unsuccessful. Consistent with expectations, more than half of the participants reported the combination of both social and formal approaches as the ideal campus tobacco policy enforcement strategy. This dissertation adds to a growing literature on campus tobacco policy enforcement. Findings should urge college leadership to strengthen existing tobacco policy enforcement efforts, assure enforcement includes both social and formal approaches, and ensure that all members of the campus community are fully aware of the tobacco policy enforcement efforts on campus.

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