San Marcos

Psychology Professor Leads Program That Has Made CSUSM a Smoke-and Tobacco-Free Campus

Public Health


CSU San Marcos established Clear the Air in 2017 to help it implement an executive order by California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White calling for smoke- and tobacco-free environments at all campuses. The program is led by psychology professor Kim Pulvers, who has done tobacco control research for 15 years, and is funded through a $400,000 grant. 

Now that CSUSM has been smoke- and tobacco-free for two years, Dr. Pulvers is able to provide data when she hears a common question around campus.

“People want to know how it’s going,” she said. “And we’ve got some compelling data.” 

Among the most notable results has been a 54 percent decrease in cigarette litter on campus from spring 2017 to summer 2019, Dr. Pulvers said. Exposure to secondhand smoke or vapor has decreased 36 percent. Results are based on environmental scans and campuswide surveys of about 3,000 faculty, staff and students that have been conducted each fall since 2016.

Still, Pulvers said there is more work to be done when it comes to cigarette litter. In that regard, Clear the Air has implemented two techniques: an ambassador program and an online reporting tool. 

The CTA online reporting tool, which launched in March, was made available through the campus app last fall. It allows people to quickly and easily pinpoint on a map where they saw smoking/ vaping or cigarette litter. One of Pulvers’ goals for the new academic year is to encourage more people to use the reporting tool. As an incentive, anyone who leaves their contact information after filling out the online form is entered into a weekly drawing for a $10 Starbucks gift card.

“We’re partnering with UC Davis, and they have their own version of the tool,” Pulvers said. “They’ve had a higher utilization rate than we have. We’re trying to spread the word more about the tool so CSUSM students, faculty and staff can be more involved.”

The CTA Ambassador Program was established last fall and is staffed by student interns and volunteers. Ambassadors encourage compliance with the smoke- and tobacco-free policy through peer-to-peer interaction, engagement and education. The program is registered with the Office of Internships through the CSUSM Sustainability Program.