Indiana State University Newsroom

Students work to make Indiana State a tobacco-free campus

January 6, 2017

A student-led organization aims to make Indiana State University a tobacco-free campus.

Tobacco-Free Blue was founded last spring to advocate for a comprehensive tobacco policy.

Tobacco-Free Blue President Katie Lugar has a history of involvement with Chances and Services for Youth, which is connected with the Vigo County Tobacco Prevention in Cessation Coalition. Lugar got an opportunity to intern through her master's program and met Libby Ray, coordinator for Vigo County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation.

Ray and Lugar, who received her bachelor's and master's degrees in social work at Indiana State and is now a doctoral student in the health sciences program, teamed up a year and a half ago for what they felt was a need on Indiana State's campus -- a tobacco-free environment.

Last spring, Olabode Ayodele, assistant professor of applied health sciences, conducted a survey to guide the organization to assess student health beliefs and perspectives on a tobacco-free policy.

Two-thirds of the more than 1,000 respondents reported being exposed to second-hand smoke on a daily basis, and two-thirds supported a tobacco-free policy.

The organization's executive board includes Adams Atakora as vice president, Jessica Axsom, community outreach coordinator, Breanna Herring and Samantha Douthitt, secretaries, Ray, community partner, and Jodi Rees, faculty advisor, who have helped host many promotional events on campus to share the movement.

They have collected more than 1,000 written signatures and online signatures on They have used their Facebook page to gain followers and promote their efforts and also conducted a cigarette butts clean up event on campus where the group collected more than 2,000 butts in over an hour.

"It's not just about those who are affected. It is to create a safer and healthier campus in general," Jessica Axsom, graduate assistant for student health promotions.

Tobacco-Free Blue has been presented at the Wellness Bash, Volunteer Fair, Student Organization Fair and Wellness Fair, utilizing visuals and its petition to give people an opportunity to join the coalition. The group strives to get involved with student groups and students who have the interest to make a difference, like the health science students.

"I think Tobacco-Free Blue is a great movement for our campus. Tobacco products impact not only our campus's presentation, but also the health and wellness of the campus community as a whole. It is great that there are people at ISU striving to make these changes," said Kaleigh Decker, a senior psychology major.

"We did a town hall meeting last year where we had Dr. Ayodele and Libby Ray and a representative from Ball State and another university that went tobacco-free, and myself on the panel. They discussed the impacts and why is it important, pros and cons, and how they are going to move forward," Lugar said.

Indiana State's current policy says it is tobacco-free except designated areas and private vehicles on campus.

Tobacco-Free Blue's proposition would include a comprehensive tobacco-free policy with examples of tobacco and removing the exception. There would be no tobacco use on campus property to make it easier to enforce.

"Right now we have really focused on student support and understanding what students want and how it is going to affect campus. We really want to cover our bases with research," Lugar said.

The group has met with student senate and plans to set up a meeting with university President Dan Bradley and the Board of Trustees. It also hopes to meet with people who would directly influence policy change and gather letters of support from influential people, also known as key champions of change. 

"We hope to have engagement with all people who have a say and want to have a say with Tobacco-Free Blue. We really want to be mindful of going forward with making change," Lugar said. "I actually feel very encouraged that there is a lot of support from student, faculty and staff. People are open to have discussions and even if they are not sure this is what they want for their campus, they engage in positive conversations. It is my hope that is will be implemented."


Writer: Abby Niepagen, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University,