Keene YMCA: New Campus-Wide Smoke-Free Policy

Categories: Healthy Places, Income and Jobs, Tobacco Free, Workplace Wellness

While the Keene YMCA has always posted tobacco-free signs for the benefit of its 200 employees and 6000+ members, it did not have a written tobacco-free policy. The facility also lacked tobacco-free signage on the grounds and parking lot. Because of this, it was assumed that smoking cigarettes outside the building (sometimes near the campus’s child care center) was allowed. This not only posed an image problem for an organization that promotes health and wellness, it presented a secondhand smoke health hazard to the Y community.

The Y decided to hang signage prohibiting smoking campus-wide, and to craft a tobacco-free policy encompassing everywhere that the Y had a presence: on campus, off-site camps, field trips and other Y-sponsored events. The challenge? Create a policy that was clear, yet supportive to employees who wished to quit smoking.

After the YMCA conducted a wellness assessment with Healthy Monadnock it was revealed that the YMCA had health insurance covered nicotine replacement products for full time — but not part time — employees. With support from Cheshire Coalition for Tobacco Free Communities (CCTFC) the Y was able to bridge the gap and provide education and assistance to all employees, paid for by the Y.  Healthy Monadnock and CCTFC worked with the YMCA to craft a tobacco-free policy with supportive language to help tobacco users feel comfortable seeking help to quit.

RESULTS: The Keene YMCA implemented a tobacco-free policy for employees and members that encourages anyone using tobacco to seek help quitting, free of charge. In addition, the Y has offered a free one-month pass to anyone in the CCTFC smoking cessation program as a way to encourage active living habits. The new policy has been promoted at orientations, staff meetings, news releases and in member newsletters. New signage — both inside and outside the building, including in the parking lot — reminds staff, members and visitors of the tobacco-free environment. While the policy is still too new for statistical results, the response has been positive with the staff; some have contacted the CCTFC for help. And some CCTFC participants are already taking advantage of the free month membership at the YMCA.

“I commend the YMCA for their commitment to become a tobacco-free campus for both their employees and the members.  Policy can be uncomfortable to talk about, especially tobacco, but it doesn’t have to be.  The Y is providing their staff with the programs and resources that they need to quit using tobacco, which supports the policy.  The result is a comprehensive approach to enhance employee health.  Clearly, the Y continues to be a champion and a leader in our community.”  — Maryanne Keating, Program Coordinator, Healthy Monadnock

It is important to create tobacco-free policies with an organization’s culture in mind. Keene YMCA carefully crafted a policy that not only clarified its tobacco-free policy but made it clear that that the organization wanted help people quit. Providing free smoking cessation classes and products through a local organization — and even reaching out to the community at large to encourage healthy living habits — encourages smokers to become healthier on all levels.


The Keene YMCA created its no-tobacco policy May 2015. It plans to continue to raise awareness about the policy and its desire to support those who wish to quit smoking through messaging in the media, its newsletter, signage and reminders at staff meetings. The organization is monitoring the progress of the policy, both in terms of enforcement and the numbers of members/staff who are taking advantage of the smoking cessation programs offered by the Cheshire Coalition for Tobacco Free Communities. 

Could your worksite benefit from a tobacco free policy? Contact Healthy Monadnock and we’ll make it easy for you.