Skip Over Navigation Links

The NIH Director

Memorandum from the NIH Director:
NIH Tobacco-Free October 1, 2008

September 12, 2008

Smoking tobacco remains the leading preventable cause of death in this country and secondhand smoke is known to be a cancer-causing agent. Devastating cancers are caused by chewing tobacco products. To protect the health of all who work at or visit the NIH, it is imperative that we become tobacco-free.

Effective October 1, 2008, use of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, smokeless tobacco, and any other tobacco products is prohibited on the NIH Bethesda Campus.

Although early notice in 2005 of the approaching tobacco-free policy alerted the campus to the coming changes, we are giving you this additional reminder before the policy takes effect to allow those who use tobacco products to seek support and information before October 1.


On November 10, 2004, the Secretary of Health and Human Services announced the Tobacco-Free HHS initiative. This policy requires that all properties owned or leased by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies be tobacco-free to the extent that labor and lease agreements permit.

Executive Order 13058 authorizes HHS to expand the current no smoking policy to prohibit smoking on all HHS properties, including the NIH, unless prohibited by the lease terms. It is also important to note that this was a collective decision made by the full NIH leadership. Leased facilities are governed by local ordinances and some others have already become tobacco-free. Section 1701 (a) (7) (A) of the Public Health Service Act authorizes HHS to prohibit use of all tobacco products on HHS properties. The Comprehensive Smoking Education Act (CSEA) and the Comprehensive Smokeless Tobacco Health Education Act of 1986 (Smokeless) provide further legal authority for Tobacco-Free HHS.

The NIH will continue to honor all current Collective Bargaining Agreements containing provisions that address smoking or tobacco, and will implement this policy consistent with the Agreements and its obligations under law, rule or regulation.

Help is available!

The NIH Tobacco-Free Web site, at, contains links to all of the pertinent policies and documents as well as information resources. The resources available via this Web site provide information about smoking cessation programs, educational materials, and answers to your questions about the tobacco-free policy. There is also a link on the site for sending e-mail to ask any additional questions.

Ensuring Ccompliance.

Supervisors are responsible for ensuring all employees are notified of and receive a copy of the new policy. (The policy is printed at the bottom of this message.) Supervisors should apply the same administrative approach that they use to address violations of any NIH policy and should consult with an NIH employee relations specialist for advice on appropriate action to take regarding observed or reported violations.

The NIH is the Nation's medical research agency. Our mission is science in the pursuit of fundamental knowledge that will advance medicine and prevent disease. When we established a Web site for the NIH tobacco-free effort, we titled it "Taking Our Own Best Advice." We want a healthy and productive NIH community. For those who have never used tobacco products or who have set them aside at an earlier time, please show compassion and understanding toward those who are stopping now.

Thank you for your compliance with this important policy.

Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D.
Director, National Institutes of Health

This page last reviewed on February 14, 2011

Social Media Links