Frequently asked questions

Why does VCU have a smoke and tobacco-free policy?

VCU is committed to providing an environment that is free of known health hazards and encourages healthy habits among students, patients, faculty, staff and visitors. Tobacco is the single largest preventable cause of premature death. Education about tobacco-use and associated health risks can help members of the VCU community avoid starting a bad habit. Eliminating second-hand smoke also makes it easier for existing smokers to quit. In addition, cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world and it costs the university money to clean them up. Smoke and tobacco-free campus policies also significantly reduce campus fires.

What spaces are covered under the policy?

The Smoke and Tobacco-Free Campus policy applies to all university property, both indoor and outdoor, including, but not limited to, all offices, classrooms, hallways, waiting rooms, restrooms, meeting rooms, community areas, performance venues, parking garages, covered walkways, temporary enclosed structures, trailers, and tents, the Compass, McGuire Park and residence halls, unless permitted by the terms of the policy. This policy also applies to vehicles owned or leased by the university.  

Who does the policy apply to?

This policy applies to students, faculty, staff, contractors and any other visitors to campus.

How long has this policy been effective?

The policy became effective as of July 1, 2019.

What is considered a tobacco product under the policy?

The policy applies to the use of all types of tobacco use, including but not limited to any substance containing tobacco leaf, including but not limited to, cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, hookah tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco, dipping tobacco, snus , bidis, blunts, clove cigarettes, or any other preparation of tobacco; and any product or formulation of matter containing biologically active amounts of nicotine that is manufactured, sold, offered for sale, or otherwise distributed with the expectation that the product or matter will be introduced into the human body by inhalation (e.g., vaping or e-cigarettes). The policy does not include any cessation product specifically approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in treating nicotine or tobacco dependence.

Are designated smoking areas available on campus?

The following locations are currently designated smoking areas on the Monroe Park Campus:

  • Behind the Well (815 S. Cathedral Pl.)
  • Behind 700 West Grace Street
  • On the east side of Shafer Street Playhouse, between Shafer Dining Center and Ritter-Hickok
  • VCU College of Engineering, West Hall at the end of the breezeway next to Pine Street
  • VCU College of Engineering, East Hall at the steps on the west end of the crescent drive on the north side of the building

These designated areas are subject to change. Smoking is also permitted in Monroe Park as long as waste is disposed of in receptacles (provided on lamp poles and near trash bins). Smoking on the MCV Campus is not permitted. A smoke-free policy has been in place at VCU Health System since 2010. 

Can VCU designate additional smoking areas?

Under the policy, VCU Facilities Management may upon request work with building managers to identify appropriate designated smoking areas that comply with policy provisions. The vice president for administration will review and approve all outside smoking area plans.

How does the policy apply to sidewalks and areas owned by the City of Richmond?

The Smoke and Tobacco-Free Campus policy applies to the use of tobacco products on university property. Consistent with the executive order and associated guidelines, the use of tobacco products on areas owned by the city of Richmond, beyond 25 feet from any entrance to university facilities, is allowed. 

How will it be enforced?

Signage is posted all around campus to create awareness about the policy. Please keep in mind, the focus of the policy implementation is on education and wellness as opposed to strict penalties and enforcement. 

Failure to abide by the policy may result in disciplinary action under the Student Code of Conduct or VCU progressive discipline guidelines for employees.  As the policy implementation progresses, designated employees may help enforce the policy.

The university police department would treat violations of the university’s policy as it treats violations of other university policies, by referring the report to the university authority responsible for enforcing the policy. (For example, staff or faculty violations would be referred to Human Resources and student violations would be referred to Student Affairs.)

As to enforcement of Virginia's new law, Va. Code section 18.2-371.2(B), effective July 1, 2019, which prohibits possession of any tobacco product, nicotine vapor product, or alternative nicotine product by persons under age 21, any law-enforcement officer may issue a summons for a violation of that law. A court may impose a civil fine or community service hours.

Will VCU offer resources for tobacco-users who want to quit?

Yes. In addition to the Smoke and Tobacco-Free policy, VCU’s Massey Cancer Center, VCU Human Resources, The Well and others are working together to offer smoking cessation programs, educational materials and other wellness resources to help people quit. 

How to report policy violations?

You can report policy violations by emailing We will work to improve signage and education in areas where policy violations persist.

What about smoking cessation tobacco products? Are they allowed on campus?

Yes. The policy does not apply to any cessation product specifically approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in treating nicotine or tobacco dependence.

Are there any exceptions under the policy?

Sponsored research involving tobacco or tobacco products is exempt under the policy. In the case of smoking, the university employee must obtain a written waiver signed by the vice president for research prior to the initiation of the research. Any such waiver will designate a specific room within the facility (following inspection by VCU Safety and Risk Management and concurrence by the dean or his/her direct representative) and sponsored research requirements. Smoke, like any other contaminant, will be controlled. All research involving the participation of human subjects, including that with tobacco, or tobacco products requires approval by the VCU Institutional Review Board.

What's the difference between vaping and nicotine replacement inhaler?

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. The term is used because e-cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, but rather an aerosol, often mistaken for water vapor, that actually consists of fine particles. Many of these particles contain varying amounts of toxic chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, as well as respiratory and heart disease.
Inhalers tackle the habit of smoking, as well as the physical addiction to nicotine. When you puff on the mouthpiece, the cartridge releases nicotine to help relieve your craving. And, because it's designed to be held like a cigarette, your hands are kept busy too.