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May 20, 2016

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female smoking

Feedback: Is it possible to rethink the campus smoking policy? Forcing smokers off campus, but allowing them to stand immediately outside the gates means that employees who enter pedestrian portals (bus riders, carpoolers and walkers) like the one at South Dr. at Old Georgetown Rd. must run a gauntlet of smokers down a path littered with butts to enter campus. In addition, the security guards who work at the gates (in particular the Quonset hut at South Dr. and Old Georgetown, but likely others) are exposed to secondhand smoke nearly all day, every day. As are people who use the loading docks, where illicit smoking is rarely if ever enforced. The outside the gate smoking rule also has public relations implications, as drivers on Old Georgetown Rd. frequently see clusters of smokers framed by the signs boasting about NIH’s no-smoking policy. I would love to see all NIH employees quit smoking, but that is clearly not going to happen any time soon. However, the smoking rules from several years ago, which allowed smoking only in designated, out of the way places, were much more effective in protecting non-smoking employees from secondhand smoke.

Response from the Office of Research Services and Office of Research Facilities: The Tobacco-Free NIH Policy is now part of the overall HHS Tobacco-Free Policy ( from 2011, which prohibits employees, contractors and visitors from using any “tobacco products at all of its facilities under direct HHS control—within buildings as well as in outdoor spaces, parking lots, private vehicles on the premises and government vehicles…” It is not possible for NIH to change its policy on the main campus as it is required to follow the HHS policy.

We understand your concerns about smoking outside of the perimeter fences. As the NIH Tobacco-Free Policy is self-policing, NIH has made a decision that enforcement ends at the perimeter gates, as there are public sidewalks and areas near the Metro station that are accessible to the general public. We ask that those smoking outside the perimeter fences please be respectful of others by keeping a safe distance so as not to expose employees to secondhand smoke.

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