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Truth Initiative’s Historically Black College and University Tobacco-Free Initiative

The number of smoke- and tobacco-free colleges has more than tripled since 2010, when 446 campuses adopted smoke- or tobacco-free policies. Today that number stands at 1,577 campuses, yet the majority of the federally recognized Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the U.S. do not have comprehensive smoke- or tobacco-free policies to protect their students and faculty from the dangers of tobacco use and second-hand smoke. Truth Initiative (formerly The Legacy Foundation) saw HBCUs as an opportunity to reach Black/African American students and surrounding communities by implementing a new tobacco-free initiative. Tobacco is the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S. Each year, approximately 47,000 African Americans die from smoking-related disease. While the overall use of cigarettes among youth in the U.S. has declined, smoking among ethnic minorities is still prevalent.1

The HBCU Tobacco-Free Initiative, the first-of-its-kind, national-effort initiative would parallel the existing Community College Tobacco-Free Initiative but diverge slightly to take the HBCU cultural context into account. Led by Truth Initiative and former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, the initiative provides grants to HBCUs to assist them in their efforts to establish comprehensive tobacco-free policies on their campuses. In 2014, Truth Initiative contracted with Community Science to conduct an evaluation of a pilot of the initiative. The evaluation yielded a number of noteworthy findings that contributed to the implementation of the full HBCU initiative the following year and resulted in Truth Initiative and Community Science conducting a joint presentation entitled “Building Capacity to Implement Tobacco Policy Efforts in Underserved Settings: Process Evaluation of The Legacy Foundation’s Initiatives With Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Community Colleges” at the 2015 American Evaluation Association in Chicago, Illinois. In October 2015, Truth Initiative and Shaw University hosted 33 HBCUs to kick off the Tobacco-Free HBCU Campus Initiative.






Thirty-three HBCU campuses received funds and assistance as part of a first wave of grantees to participate in the initiative. Students, faculty, and staff at each school participate in a task force charged with assessing tobacco use on their campus. Each school also develops a public-education campaign to support the establishment of a comprehensive tobacco-free policy on that campus. Several national partners are collaborating with Truth Initiative to support the HBCUs, including African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council; Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation; Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative; National African American Tobacco Prevention Network; The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living; Tobacco Control Network; and the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program.

For additional information about the Tobacco-Free HBCU Initiative, visit

Truth Initiative is a national public health organization that is inspiring tobacco-free lives and building a culture where all youth and young adults reject tobacco. The truth about tobacco and the tobacco industry are at the heart of our proven-effective and nationally recognized truth® public education campaign, our rigorous and scientific research and policy studies, and our innovative community and youth engagement programs supporting populations at high risk of using tobacco. Based in Washington, D.C., the organization was established and funded through the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories, and the tobacco industry. To learn more about our work speaking, seeking, and spreading the truth about tobacco, visit


1Truth Initiative HBCU Tobacco Free Press Release (10/11/15)
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