Designing Smoke-Free Outdoor Areas for Student Housing and Public Spaces

Brad Smith
Written By Brad Smith

Today, it’s not a secret for anyone that smoking has a range of harmful effects not only on those holding a cigarette but the so-called secondhand smokers as well. This kind of awareness stands behind the implementation of various smoking bans and regulations in indoor spaces like bars, cafés, restaurants, and so on. Nonetheless, when it comes to the outdoor areas (especially those that are located near students’ housing and public spaces), there are still some sort of challenges for non-smokers and intentions to create an environment that is smoke-free. To design a smoke-free outdoor area, it is crucial to focus on the aspects like signage, layout, as well as community engagement. This, in turn, will help you guarantee 100% effectiveness of the design project.

designing smoke free outdoor areas for student housing and public spaces

Why Do We Need Smoke-Free Areas Outdoors?

Whether mentioned in students smoking should be banned in public places essay or on TV, the need for well-arranged smoke-free outdoor areas has been widely discussed. This is mainly caused by the range of health risks that are linked to breathing in secondhand smoke. Based on the data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and about 70 that can cause cancer.” When exposed to secondhand smoke, non-smokers find themselves at higher risk of having heart diseases, lung cancer, and various respiratory issues. Since smoke-free areas promote clean air and create a healthy environment, it is important to design them in student housing and public areas.

Top Points to Consider to Design Smoke-Free Outdoor Areas

  • Layout and design. When creating an area that is free from cigarettes, it is crucial to think about the layout and design. Both should be created to not only discourage smoking but also cut off exposure to secondhand smoke. The plan may include providing designated smoking areas far from areas with high traffic. Items like fences, planters, and natural landscape barriers will perfectly help put the line between smoking and non-smoking areas in the most effective manner.  
  • Communicate clearly. To guide people and communicate the smoke-free policy in non-smoking areas in a clear manner, it is important to consider proper signage. It is important to display the related signs at gathering spaces, entrances, and other relevant locations. This will inform (and remind!) undergrads, residents, and visitors about the smoke-free policy.
  • Think of the details. Setting clear and concise guidelines for enforcement and addressing non-compliance is a must. This step is essential to maintain a smoke-free outdoor area. Think about creating special protocols for reporting possible violations, and training volunteers and staff that will help monitor compliance. At this point, it is critical to focus more on education rather than punitive measures.
  • Talk to the community. Contacting the reps of the community, including college and university students, personnel, residents, and so on is crucial if you need to implement a tobacco-free outdoor area successfully. For example, you may use surveys to get feedback from the community, as well as host workshops and informational sessions. Get in touch with the resident associations, student organizations, and local health agencies. The more you get involved in the community, the better decisions you will eventually make when it comes to creating a smoke-free setting.
  • Provide ways to access. One of the key tasks here is to make smoke-free outdoor areas both accessible and inclusive for everyone (no exceptions!). To cut a long story, everyone including people who have disabilities should have easy access to the tobacco-free zone. For instance, you can provide ample seating and accommodations so that every member of the community can enjoy the outdoor non-smoking areas.  

Top Best Practices in US Colleges

A range of colleges, public institutions, and universities in the United States of America have successfully implemented smoke-free outdoor initiatives and policies. For instance, the University of California (known as Berkeley) was known for its smoke-free policy in 2014. Based on their policies, it is banned to use e-cigarettes, cigars, cigarettes, snuff, snus, hookahs, etc. At the same time, in 2020, the city of San Francisco adopted a smoke-free outdoor dining ordinance. As a result, smoking was banned within 15 feet of outdoor dining areas in order to protect restaurant personnel from secondhand smoke. Among the other institutions that joined the hit parade of non-smoking places, we should also mention Concordia College Alabama, Lawson State Community College, Lurleen B. Wallace Community College, Shelton State Community College, etc.

Now that all things about creating a tobacco-free environment are clear, time to get the job done! To implement all the policies, you will have to collaborate with those who are equally interested in making this or that community a healthier place. Communicate your ideas clearly, listen to those who have their suggestions, provide signages that everyone understands, and ensure people with disabilities will also have access to the non-smoking area. Finally, a shared commitment to promoting the well-being of every campus member is the key to the success of this initiative.  

smith brad omni

Written by Brad Smith

CEO & Lead Interior Designer

Brad Smith is an experienced interior designer and the founder of With a Master's degree in Interior Design from Pratt Institute and a passion for creating safe and healthy living spaces, Brad shares his expert insights and innovative design ideas with our readers. His work is driven by the belief that home is where every story begins.