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NIDA Announces Smoke-Free Meeting Policy


National Institute on Drug Abuse Becomes Second NIH Institute To Adopt Guidelines

Bethesda, Md. — The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, today announced it would enact a new policy requiring that all meetings and conferences organized or primarily sponsored by NIDA be held in a state or municipality that has adopted a comprehensive smoke-free policy, unless specific circumstances justify an exemption.

NIDA’s policy follows a similar announcement by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) based on extensive scientific data concerning the dangers of secondhand smoke. These dangers were summarized recently in the U.S. Surgeon General’s report, The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, indicating that exposure to secondhand smoke remains “a serious public health hazard.”

“Most smokers use tobacco regularly because they are addicted to nicotine,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, NIDA director. “Addiction is characterized by compulsive use, even in the face of negative health consequences. Reducing such exposure will not only improve public health but may also facilitate quit attempts by those addicted to tobacco, benefiting their health as well.” Dr. Volkow announced the new policy during her keynote presentation at the Up in Smoke: Tobacco and the American Youth conference of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

Research shows that more than 126 million Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke (also known as environmental tobacco smoke), causing an estimated 3,400 lung cancer deaths per year among nonsmokers. Secondhand smoke is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning end of tobacco products (sidestream smoke) and the mainstream smoke exhaled by smokers. It contains many chemicals (including formaldehyde, cyanide, carbon monoxide, and ammonia), some of which are known carcinogens.

“NIDA hopes the new meeting policy will raise awareness of the importance of protecting nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure, and will encourage communities to adopt nonsmoking regulations for public facilities,” added Dr. Volkow.

Effective January 1, 2007, the policy will impact the many NIDA-sponsored or organized meetings of 20 or more attendees that occur each year. NIDA’s new policy is consistent with NCI’s smoke-free meeting policy, and does not apply to meetings or conferences for which NIDA is not the sole or primary organizer or sponsor and where location arrangements have already been made. To determine meeting sites, NIDA will use NCI’s newly developed Web site to support meeting planning in smoke-free jurisdictions at

For more information on tobacco abuse and addiction, please visit

Copies of The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General and related materials are available on the Surgeon General’s Web site at

The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to ensure the rapid dissemination of research information and its implementation in policy and practice. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs of abuse and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found on the NIDA home page at

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation’s Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit


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