Campus News

November 14, 2011

Report From: Tobacco-Free Emory

Countdown to Tobacco-Free Emory begins

By James Curran, dean of Rollins School of Public Health

As our country recognizes and celebrates the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 17, this day will have even more significance for those of us in the Emory community because it is the day that we will begin our official countdown to when our campus will become "tobacco-free." 

As dean of the Rollins School of Public Health, I congratulate Emory for this significant achievement. I applaud our leadership for bringing this initiative forward and for its steadfast commitment to seeing it through to completion. 

Look how far we've come as a nation.  I remember when smoking was permitted in offices, on airplanes and even in our schools. I remember when cigarette ads were cool and tobacco vending machines were plentiful.  Even physician and athletes frequently smoked and appeared in ads.  Through education and strong advocacy, our country has evolved into one that has reduced its tolerance for the public health hazard of tobacco use, especially to smokers themselves, but also to others through second-hand smoke. 

This cultural shift is the result of people taking action against tobacco, and it has resulted in significant policy changes at the local, state and national levels.  But there is more work to be done.  We at Emory, as a premier health institution, have the responsibility to do our part.

The road to becoming a tobacco-free campus at Emory is not an easy one.  The effort has not only required the support of Emory leadership, but also an enormous amount of work on the part of Emory staff, faculty and students. 

It has involved community meetings, communication campaigns, advocacy efforts, policy design, cessation programs, and even the establishment of temporary smoking zones to ease our transition. It is a major undertaking, but the payoff in terms of public health is great.

Those of us who work directly in the public health field are all too well aware of the significant damage that smoking does to one's health.  Cigarette smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the United States. According the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it is responsible for an estimated 438,000 deaths in the United States per year, or about one out of every five deaths.

Worldwide, tobacco use results in nearly 5 million deaths per year. As dean of a school that works globally to promote health and prevent disease, you can understand my personal commitment to seeing Emory do all we can to reduce tobacco use and its adverse health consequences.

By creating a tobacco-free campus, we are sending a clear message not only to the Emory community, but to the community at large and to our nation, that we support public health. 

Learn more at

In addition to several Emory appointments, Dean James Curran is chair of the board on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention of the Institute of Medicine and serves on the State of Georgia's Board of Public Health.

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