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Taking Our Own Best Advice: A Tobacco-Free NIH

National Institutes of Health Tobacco-Free Campus Policy


The NIH is the steward of medical and behavior research for the Nation. Its mission is science in pursuit of fundamental knowledge about nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to extend healthy life and reduce the burdens of illness and disability. A significant amount of research has been conducted on the health effects of smoking. The research has clearly identified that: tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in this country and second hand smoke is a known cancer causing agent. In light of concern for those who visit or work at the NIH, it is imperative that we move forward with this tobacco-free policy and bring our mission home to our campus.


    The purpose of this issuance is to provide guidelines for the implementation of a policy on the prohibition of tobacco use at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Bethesda campus. The policy is applicable to all persons on the NIH’s Bethesda campus, including employees of the NIH, contractors, fellows, visiting scientists, students, other Federal employees and members of the public while working in or visiting the campus.1


    On November 10, 2004, the HHS Secretary announced the Tobacco-Free HHS initiative. This policy requires all properties owned or leased by the Department of Health and Human Services (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 (ETS) in the workplace. Use of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, smokeless tobacco, and any other tobacco products lead to disease and death. Therefore, this policy is designed to include all tobacco products.

    Executive Order 13058 authorizes HHS to expand the current no-smoking policy to prohibit smoking on all HHS properties, including the NIH, unless prohibited by the lease terms. Section 1701(a) (7) (A) of the Public Health Service Act authorizes HHS to prohibit the use of all tobacco products on HHS properties, as part of a model program to promote healthy behaviors and discourage participation in unhealthy behaviors. Lastly, the Comprehensive Smoking Education ACT (CSEA) and the Comprehensive Smokeless Tobacco Health Education Act of 1986 (Smokeless Act), found at 15 U.S.C. section 1341 and 15 U.S.C. section 4401, respectively, provide further legal authority for Tobacco-Free HHS.


    1. Effective October 1, 2008, the use of all tobacco products (including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, smokeless tobacco, or other tobacco products) is prohibited at all times:
      • In all buildings;
      • On all outside property or grounds, including parking areas;
      • In government vehicles.

    2. Communication of Policy

      The NIH web site has a link to Tobacco-Free NIH ( This web site will provide a direct link to the policy along with educational and promotional materials.

      Signs bearing the message “Tobacco-Free Campus” will be posted at each vehicular and pedestrian NIH campus entrance, and on buildings (as applicable). No ashtrays, butt cans or smoking shelters will be provided on tobacco-free campus grounds.

    3. Tobacco Use Cessation Programs

      The NIH encourages and supports employees who request assistance in eliminating dependence on the use of tobacco products through enrollment in an approved smoking cessation program as administered by the Federal Occupational Health (FOH).

      Alternatively, 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 (whether the product is required by the program or not). Covered individuals seeking assistance can also make use of NIH resources online at

    4. Exceptions

      This policy does not apply to residential properties on the NIH campus.

      The Warren G. Magnuson Clinical Center may continue to apply the "Smoking in the Clinical Center" policy developed by the Medical Executive Committee as it pertains to the use of designated “Patient Smoking Areas."


    1. Responsibilities of all employees, contractors, fellows, visiting scientists, students, visitors, and others with regard to compliance with the tobacco-free policy at NIH:

      Adherence to the policy cited above is the responsibility of all NIH employees. Contractors, fellows, visiting scientists, students, and visitors must also comply with this policy while on the NIH campus.

      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.

    2. Responsibilities of supervisors with regard to compliance with the tobacco-free policy at NIH:

      Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that all employees are notified of the new policy and receive a copy of the policy. Supervisors are advised to confer with their servicing employee relations specialists prior to initiating any administrative action.

      Any person who observes violations of the policy may report these violations to the supervisor of the employee in question. Once the 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. The same administrative approach should be applied that is used in addressing violations of other NIH policies. Supervisors should consult with an NIH employee relations specialist for advice on the appropriate action.


1The NIH will continue to honor all current Collective Bargaining Agreements containing provisions that address smoking/tobacco, and will implement this policy consistent with the Agreements and its obligations under law, rule or regulation.
This page last reviewed on April 16, 2013

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