Tobacco Free Zone

Tompkins County’s Newest Welcome Sign

 A Tobacco Free (T-Free) Zone is a posted outdoor area that is intended to be free of smoking and tobacco smoke, free of advertisements and promotional displays for tobacco products, and free of smokeless tobacco use.


Tobacco Free Zone resolution passes Tompkins County Legislature, March 20, 2007.
[ Read the resolution]

“Free of smoking and tobacco smoke...”
More than ever, individuals are seeking to avoid exposure to tobacco smoke because of its known health hazards. Posting building entrances and other public areas where people linger — picnic or outdoor seating areas, storefronts or shop windows, outdoor waiting areas, viewing stands or bleachers — as a T-Free Zone provides a welcoming assurance for adults that a small step has been taken to minimize the likelihood that they, their children and their pets will encounter tobacco smoke.

“Free of advertisements and promotional displays; free of smokeless tobacco use...”
Children and teens are easily influenced by advertising and by adult behaviors. And underage youth are drawn to the stores with more ads figuring they are the easiest places to buy tobacco.*

Every day, thousands of kids try tobacco for the first time. Nearly half become regular tobacco users.** T-Free Zones provide a welcoming assurance for parents that a small step has been taken to minimize youth encounters with these influences.

Post a T-Free Zone sticker to show your support for a community-wide effort to decrease the social and economic burden of tobacco use in Tompkins County.

Click here to view a fact sheet on the economic burden of tobacco use in Tompkins County


The T-Free Zone campaign kicks off in July 2006.
  • Read the Press Release (July 10 06)
  • Read about the direct mail campaign
  • Read Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the T-Free Zone
  • Make sure you get stickers and information when available. Use our registration form to send your request.


Tompkins County Health Department
July 10, 2006
Ted Schiele, 607-274-6712,
Theresa Lyczko, 607-274-6714,

Health Department encourages smoke free entrances with its Tobacco Free Zone program

Seventy-five percent of Tompkins County residents say they are bothered by secondhand tobacco smoke, and nine-in-ten consider it harmful. Now, the Tompkins County Health Department (TCHD) is launching a new program that takes one more step to help residents and visitors avoid unwanted exposure to tobacco smoke. The program asks businesses and employers to designate certain outdoor areas such as doorways, entryways, walkways or seating areas as a “Tobacco Free Zone.” A mailing this week to over twelve hundred Tompkins County worksites will include “T-Free Zone” stickers and information about the benefits of the program. Any business, organization or workplace may request T-Free Zone stickers, which will be available at no charge while supplies last. The program was developed at the TCHD by Tobacco Free Tompkins, a partnership funded by the New York State Tobacco Control Program (NYTCP). Complete information about the T-Free Zone program is available on the Tobacco Free Tompkins web site,

The most common place for a T-Free Zone will be building entrances where customers and employees come and go. After the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act (CIAA) in July 2003 eliminated indoor smoking areas and smoking sections in bars and restaurants, smoking activity often shifted to building entrances. Except at restaurants, outdoor areas are not covered by either the state or Tompkins County laws. Now with the new T-Free Zone program, businesses and employers are encouraged to post a T-Free Zone sticker on their door to indicate their desire to keep the outside area around the building entrance smoke free.

Goals for the T-Free Zone program are not limited to making only the main entrance smoke free, as concern over the discomfort and health risks brought on by secondhand tobacco smoke continues to increase. Businesses may also consider posting exit doors, walkways, seating areas, and outdoor venues as areas they want to keep smoke free.

A new U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on secondhand smoke, released June 27, 2006, states that it only takes brief exposure to secondhand smoke to cause immediate harm to the cardiovascular system and elevate the risk for heart disease and lung cancer. The report emphasizes that children are especially vulnerable to harm from tobacco smoke.

Public health actions to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke were first taken over thirty years ago. The Surgeon General’s June 27 report shows that there is no longer any scientific debate that secondhand smoke causes serious diseases, including lung cancer, heart disease and respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and asthma, and that the only way to protect everyone from these health hazards is to completely eliminate exposure. The report makes it clear that other approaches, such as smoking and non-smoking sections and ventilation technology, do not eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke.

Smoking is still the number one preventable cause of death in the nation, every year accounting for over 450,000 deaths nationally and 25,000 deaths in New York State. In Tompkins County, where about 18 percent of the adult population smokes, annual health care and lost productivity costs due to smoking total $36.1 million, and smoking-related Medicaid payments total $2.7 million per year. To reduce the human and financial costs TCHD and Tobacco Free Tompkins are committed to lowering the rate of smoking in the county by helping smokers quit, and helping others to resist starting. The T-Free Zone program is a key component of that effort.

Businesses and employers that post tobacco free zones are doing more than addressing the comfort and health concerns associated with secondhand smoke. Seeing smokers and smelling tobacco smoke are strong behavioral cues that can break the resolve of smokers who want to quit and model behavior for youth who are drawn to try smoking. A T-Free Zone demonstrates an interest in taking steps to limit these encounters.

Tobacco Free Tompkins (T-Free) is a partnership of community organizations and individuals dedicated to reducing the social and economic burden of tobacco use in Tompkins County. Tobacco Free Tompkins is a Community Partnership of the New York State Tobacco Control Program, and is funded by a grant to the Tompkins County Health Department from the New York State Department of Health. The Tobacco Free Tompkins web site is


* Voorhees C, Yanek L, Stillman F, Becker D. Reducing cigarette sales to minors in an urban setting: issues and opportunities for merchant intervention. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 1998; 4:138 –142.

** Ninety percent of current smokers started before age 18. Everyday over 4,000 kids nationwide try cigarettes for the first time and 2,000 kids become regular smokers according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. About one third of all youth smokers will die prematurely from smoking-related disease.
— Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids Research Center Fact Sheet #0001
Additional TFK Fact Sheets: Fact Sheets > Tobacco and Kids > Smoking and Kids

Statewide, among those adults who smoke everyday, 58 percent have tried to quit. Go to source of data (CDC.)