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Taking Our Own Best Advice: A Tobacco-Free NIH

Tobacco-Free NIH FAQ

Where may I find the NIH Policy on Tobacco-Free NIH?

The NIH Policy Manual, 1321 Tobacco-Free NIH (December 19, 2012) is available online.

Why is the NIH Bethesda Campus tobacco free?

Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in this country and secondhand smoke is known to be a cancer-causing agent. Devastating cancers are caused by chewing tobacco products. On November 10, 2004, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary announced the Tobacco-Free HHS Initiative. This policy requires all properties owned or leased by HHS agencies to be tobacco free insofar as labor and lease agreements permit. The goal of Tobacco-Free HHS is to improve the health of its employees by promoting tobacco use cessation while protecting employees and the public from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke in the workplace.

Furthermore, the National Institutes of Health is the Nation's Medical Research Agency. Our mission is science in the pursuit of fundamental knowledge that will advance medicine and prevent disease. The NIH seeks to create a healthy atmosphere and to protect the health of all who work at or visit the agency. It is imperative that NIH be tobacco free.

Are all tobacco products prohibited on the NIH Bethesda Campus?

Effective October 1, 2008, the use of all tobacco products is prohibited on the NIH Bethesda Campus. This includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, smokeless tobacco ("snuff"), and any other tobacco products. The use of these products in private vehicles located on the NIH Bethesda Campus is also prohibited.

What are the benefits to a tobacco-free NIH?

A tobacco-free NIH protects the health of nonsmoking employees while providing an environment conducive to tobacco users who are working to either quit or cut back on their use of tobacco. A tobacco-free NIH is expected to have a substantially greater effect on tobacco consumption than current policies that permit smoking in designated areas. The benefits of the Tobacco-Free HHS are diverse and include:

  • Increased productivity
  • Decreased absenteeism
  • Lower costs of medical expenditures associated with tobacco use
  • Lower consumption rates among non-quitters
  • Improved success in long-range tobacco cessation
  • Increased cost savings for employers, including costs associated with the risk of fire, property damage, maintenance, and employee benefits (Worker's Compensation, Disability, Retirement, Injury and Insurance)

How does the Tobacco Free policy apply to current Collective Bargaining Unit members?

The NIH will continue to honor all current Collective Bargaining Agreements containing provisions that address smoking or tobacco, and will implement this policy consistent with the Agreements and its obligations under law, rule, or regulation. Any NIH employee who is part of a bargaining unit and has questions about how this policy applies should contact NIH's Employee and Labor Relations Branch at 301-402-9203. In addition, such employees are encouraged to contact their Union Representative.

How is the NIH tobacco-free policy enforced?

It is the responsibility of every employee to know and follow the policies of the NIH.

The NIH tobacco-free policy is enforced though administrative channels, not police enforcement. Like other administrative policies, managers and supervisors will be responsible for assuring that employees comply. Employees who do not conform to this policy may be subject to administrative action. Contractors found to be in violation of this policy will be reported to their supervisor at the contracting organization. Once an employee's supervisor has been notified of a violation, or if the supervisor directly observes a violation by an employee under their direction, the supervisor is responsible for discussing the violation with the employee and taking appropriate administrative action. Supervisors should consult with an NIH employee relations specialist for advice on the appropriate action to take regarding observed or reported violations.

What tobacco use cessation programs are available?

The NIH encourages and supports employees who request assistance in eliminating dependence on the use of tobacco products.

All NIH employees, including contractors, have access to the following resources, which can help you plan your quit attempt and provide support to remain tobacco free:

  • is intended to help you or someone you care about quit smoking. Different people need different resources as they try to quit. The information and professional assistance on this Web site can help you prepare to quit, during quitting, and remain a nonsmoker.
  • Quit Smoking with the Online Quit Guide
  • National Network of Quitlines provides live telephone support and resources and is available at 1-800-QUIT-NOW, TTY 1-800-332-8615

NIH Federal employees have access to the following resources:

  • Federal Employees Health Benefits plans now offer 100% coverage to help you quit smoking once and for all.
  • NOTE: Effective January 2, 2011, all Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) health insurance plans are required to offer Tobacco Cessation Benefits.
  • The NIH and the Federal Occupational Health (FOH) provide free tobacco cessation treatment services to NIH smokers who wish to quit through local FOH-sponsored clinics. The program is available at no cost to employees if their current health insurance plan does not cover over-the-counter treatment options for tobacco addiction. Interested federal employees should complete the enrollment form (Word - 106KB).
  • For specific questions, contact Lisa House at Phone: 404-562-7950 ext. 159, Fax: 404-562-7932, Email: Note: Learn whether your health insurance provider covers treatment for tobacco addiction.
  • The employee's Institute or Center may pay the full cost of employee Smoking Cessation Product (SCP) participation sponsored or approved by the Institute or Center and completed by employees. Institutes and Centers may also reimburse the employee up to $200 for any prescription or over-the-counter SCP used in conjunction with an NIH-sponsored or approved SCP. If interested, employees should discuss alternatives with their supervisors and administrative officers and submit Standard Form-1034 (PDF - 317KB), if necessary.

To best assist employees during this transition, the NIH is working toward providing more information and resources on tobacco cessation. The NIH Tobacco-Free Web site will be updated with new information and programs, as available.

How does this policy apply to leased facilities?

While the current NIH tobacco-free policy applies only to the NIH Bethesda campus, agency leadership certainly understands the importance of this issue in other locations. Off-campus, leased facilities have different policies that may vary depending on the local regulations. If you are in a leased facility, your facility manager is the first point of contact for all facility-related issues.

Leased facilities must adhere to state and local regulations, which include those in Montgomery County. For additional information about Montgomery County policies, employees and/or facility managers might wish to speak with the Montgomery County Licensing and Regulatory Services External Web Site Policy at 240-777-3986, if the building is experiencing challenges in this area.

How does this policy apply to NIH-owned facilities located outside of the Bethesda campus?

This policy applies only to the Bethesda campus. The previous NIH 2002 policy is still in effect unless there is a facility specific smoking policy.

I have noticed smokers gathering outside entrances to the NIH campus. How will this be addressed?

Many involved with the tobacco-free NIH efforts will be monitoring this situation and others that arise. The NIH works closely with the surrounding community, and we will continue to work with them as concerns and issues arise.

This page last reviewed on May 4, 2016

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