Skip to content

College Campus Policies

Description of Strategy

A significant amount of research has been conducted on the prevalence and effects of single programs and policies on college campuses related to alcohol and tobacco treatment, intervention, and prevention. These programs include policies such as substance-free dorms, smoke-free campuses, Friday and Saturday substance use class requirements, prohibition of alcohol sales on campus, and letters to parents regarding alcohol violations. To be effective at reaching the entire continuum of students who may experience alcohol- and tobacco-related problems, campuses must do more than implement single policies or programs. Components of a comprehensive campus alcohol system include alcohol screening, intervention, treatment, prevention policies mentioned above, and enforcement. Research and theory suggest that making multiple changes to the campus and community alcohol environment can be effective in reducing alcohol use and related problems among college students; however, the ideal combination of programs, policies and other systems changes has not been identified (Toomey et al., 2013).

Also known as...

Alcohol/Tobacco Bans

Discussion of Effectiveness


Evidence is varied for the effectiveness of college campus policies regarding underage drinking and other alcohol related outcomes. Multi-component programs were typically found to be effective (Newman, Shell, Major, & Workman, 2006; Saltz, Welker, Paschall, Feeney, & Fabiano, 2009; Wolfson et al., 2012). The degree of effectiveness depended on the level of policy implementation and the specific components of the college campus program (Toomey & Wagenaar, 2002; Weitzman, Nelson, Hang, & Wechsler, 2004).


Evidence is generally supportive of the effectiveness of college campus policies to reduce tobacco use among college students. Specifically, implementation of smoke-free campus policies was associated with favorable changes in smoking behavior (Seo, Macy, Torabi, & Middlestadt, 2011).

Prescription & Other Drugs

Additional research is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of college campus polices on outcomes related to other drug use.


Strategy Description

University of Minnesota Alcohol Epidemiology Program. (2009). Policies on College Campuses. Retrieved August 15, 2012

Evidence Base

Borders, T. F., Xu, K. T., Bacchi, D., Cohen, L., & SoRelle-Miner, D. (2005). College campus smoking policies and programs and students’ smoking behaviors. BMC Public Health, 5, 74. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-5-74

Newman, I. M., Shell, D. F., Major, L. J., & Workman, T. A. (2006). Use of policy, education, and enforcement to reduce binge drinking among university students: The NU Directions project. International Journal of Drug Policy, 17(4), 339–349. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2006.01.005

Saltz, R. F., Paschall, M. J., McGaffigan, R. P., & Nygaard, P.M. O. (2010). Alcohol risk management in college settings: The Safer California Universities randomized trial. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 39, 491-499.

Saltz, R. F., Welker, L. R., Paschall, M. J., Feeney, M. A., & Fabiano, P. M. (2009). Evaluating a comprehensive campus-community prevention intervention to reduce alcohol-related problems in a college population. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, (Suppl. 16), 21–27.

Seo, D.-C., Macy, J. T., Torabi, M. R., & Middlestadt, S. E. (2011). The effect of a smoke-free campus policy on college students’ smoking behaviors and attitudes. Preventive Medicine, 53(4–5), 347–352. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.07.015

Toomey, T. L., Nelson, T. F., Winters, K. C., Miazga, M. J., Lenk, K. M., & Erickson, D. J. (2013). Characterizing College Systems for Addressing Student Alcohol Use: Latent Class Analysis of U.S. Four-Year Colleges. Journal of Studies On Alcohol And Drugs, 74(5), 777-786.

Toomey, T. L., & Wagenaar, A. C. (2002). Environmental policies to reduce college drinking: Options and research findings. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, (Suppl. 14), 193.

Wechsler, H., Lee, J. E., Nelson, T. F., & Kuo, M. (2002). Underage college students’ drinking behavior, access to alcohol, and the influence of deterrence policies: Findings from the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study. Journal of American College Health, 50(5), 223–236. doi:10.1080/07448480209595714

Weitzman, E. R., Nelson, T. F., Hang, L., & Wechsler, H. (2004). Reducing drinking and related harms in college: Evaluation of the ‘A Matter of Degree’ program. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 27(3), 187-196.

Wolfson, M., Champion, H., McCoy, T. P., Rhodes, S. D., Ip, E. H., Blocker, J. N., … DuRant, R. H.. (2012). Impact of a randomized campus/community trial to prevent high-risk drinking among college students. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 36(10), 1767-78 doi:10.1111/j.1530-0277.2012.01786.x

Futher Reading

National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). A call to action: Recommendations for addressing excessive college drinking.

Nelson T.F., Toomey T.L., Lenk K.M., Erickson D.J., & Winters, K.C. (2010). Implementation of NIAAA college drinking task force recommendations: How are colleges doing 6 years later? Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 34(10), 1687-1693.

Pacific Institute of Research and Evaluation. (2000). Environmental strategies to prevent alcohol problems on college campuses. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.