PSU first to join regional Fresh Air Campus Challenge
Author: University Communications
Posted: February 28, 2013

Portland State University is the first campus in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to sign on to a new challenge from state and national health officials to adopt a smoke- or tobacco-free policy by 2016. 

The Fresh Air Campus Challenge — launched Feb. 28 at PSU — is a first-of-its kind effort that brings together campuses and local, state and national health organizations in a unique partnership to help all institutions of higher education begin the process of adopting a policy by the end of this year. 

For more information on the Fresh Air Campus Challenge, visit

“I am proud to join PSU today as it takes the Fresh Air Campus Challenge — the bold step forward toward creating an environment for their student body, faculty, staff and visitors that is free from the harmful effects of tobacco and secondhand smoke,” said Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH, assistant secretary for health, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. “By taking the Challenge, PSU is committing to creating a community where people, especially young adults, are protected from the single most preventable cause of death. I hope today's announcement encourages more campuses in the region, and nationwide, to take the Challenge and become smoke- and tobacco-free."

PSU hosted the regional launch and joined the Challenge as part of its ongoing efforts to provide a healthy, safe and sustainable campus environment.

“Our goal is to protect everyone on our busy urban campus from the health problems associated with tobacco, second-hand smoke and other pollutants,” said Jackie Balzer, PSU’s vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs. “Joining the Fresh Air Campus Challenge will help us continue to improve the air quality at PSU.”

Students and administrators are assessing tobacco issues on campus and working with the City of Portland to move toward a smoke-free campus. In January, PSU established a Clean Air Corridor, a five-block stretch in the heart of campus where smoking is prohibited. Since 2007, PSU has had a no-smoking rule in all buildings and within a 25-foot radius of building entrances, windows and air intake vents.

Though this is the first time a challenge has been issued, more than 60 college campuses throughout the Pacific Northwest have already gone smoke- or tobacco-free. Nationally, nearly 17 percent of all higher-education institutions now have tobacco-free or smoke-free policies. 

In Oregon, more than 50 percent of community college students attend school at a tobacco-free campus, and three of Oregon’s universities (Oregon Health & Science University, Oregon State University and the University of Oregon) have tobacco- or smoke-free campuses. All of Oregon’s K-12 school campuses are tobacco free, as are all Head Start campuses. Tobacco-free campuses help students, faculty, staff and visitors avoid the toxins found in secondhand smoke and encourage those who already smoke to quit. 

“Oregon has begun a grand journey toward transformation of our health system,” said Mel Kohn, M.D., M.P.H., state health officer and director of the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division. “Our overarching goals are to improve the health of all Oregonians, to provide better care and to lower costs. We will achieve these goals on our way to becoming one of the healthiest states in the nation.”

“This transformation is why I am so pleased to be here at the launch of the Region X Fresh Air Challenge,” Kohn added. “To deliver better care at lower cost and to improve the health of Oregonians, we must make it easier for more people to live tobacco free. Much work has been accomplished in Oregon, but there is more work to do. I encourage all colleges and universities to accept the Fresh Air Challenge and invest in creating healthier, tobacco free campuses.” 

Tobacco use costs Oregon in lives and in dollars. Tobacco use is responsible for almost 7,000 deaths per year and costs the state $2.4 billion annually in direct medical costs and lost productivity due to early death. More than $300 million of those dollars come from the state’s Medicaid budget. 

"We are excited for this effort to be launched in our community," said Lillian Shirley, director of the Multnomah County Health Department. "Our health department has been working closely with local colleges and universities to protect our young people from exposure to secondhand smoke, and we hope the Fresh Air Challenge will help build momentum for healthy campuses throughout our region."

The Fresh Air Campus Challenge is supported by a broad coalition of local, statewide, and national tobacco prevention and control partners, including the Department of Health and Human Services Region X, the American College Health Association, the American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, and state tobacco prevention and control programs.

Pictured top: Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, launches the Fresh Air Campus Challenge at PSU on Feb. 28.

Pictured bottom: PSU student Victoria Galanopoulos shares her experience with quitting smoking and promoting tobacco-free campuses.