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Tobacco Free Communities| Delaware, Otsego & Schoharie
Nine out of 10 smokers start smoking by age 18, and 99% start by age 26. So, if we can just keep young people from starting, we can prevent a vast majority of them from becoming one of the 480,000 lives taken every year by smoking.
But how do we do that?
It takes intentional steps, including reducing the appeal and accessibility of tobacco products, deglamorizing tobacco use in the media, and creating a social and physical environment that discourages tobacco use. That last measure is where colleges and universities have a unique opportunity. They can provide a healthy learning and living environment for their students by creating 100% tobacco-free policies.
A tobacco-free policy does not mean students cannot smoke, vape or use smoke-less tobacco. It simply limits where a person may use tobacco. The benefits are clear.
A 100% tobacco-free campus policy eliminates secondhand smoke exposure, changes the social norm around tobacco use, and helps those who want to quit. Tobacco-free policies are also good for the environment as cigarettes and e-cigarettes are not biodegradable and notably contribute to litter and toxins in the water and soil.
Currently, all indoor spaces on college campuses fall under New York State’s Clean Indoor Air Act. No smoking or vaping of tobacco or any other product is allowed indoors. Outdoor areas are not covered under the law and it’s up to colleges to decide what they will limit and where. To date, more than 2,500 campuses across the country have adopted a 100% smoke-free policy that prohibits smoking on all college property. More than 2,100 of these campuses also have a tobacco-free policy that bans the use of all non-combustible forms of tobacco as well as e-cigarettes.
A recent review of the 207 colleges in New York State revealed that 103 colleges (50%) have adopted 100% tobacco-free policies, 30 (15%) have smoke-free policies, and 58 (28%) have designated smoking areas. The State University of New York Chancellor and Board of Trustees have encouraged campuses to design and implement strategies to drive their campuses toward a complete tobacco-free policy. Locally, SUNY Delhi, SUNY Oneonta, SUNY Cobleskill and Hartwick College have all begun to address tobacco use on their campuses and continue to look for ways to further their efforts.
The support for tobacco-free campus policies is strong among students. According to a CVS health survey, 8 in 10 college students approved of policies that prohibit smoking and other tobacco use on campus. This mirrors the general attitude around breathing smoke-free air in public spaces. Local community surveys have shown that a large majority of residents in Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie counties favor prohibiting smoking in outdoor public places, including in parks and businesses open to the public.
While we have made great progress in driving down the smoking rate, tobacco use is still the number one preventable cause of death and disease in the U.S. and in our counties. The best way to further that progress is to prevent young people, including college students, from ever starting. With that in mind, Tobacco-Free Communities/Delaware, Otsego, Schoharie (TFC-DOS) has and continues to provide free assistance and resources to colleges as they take steps to create a healthier, tobacco-free environment for their students, staff and guests.
For more information, visit www.gotobaccofreedos.org.
Jeanie Orr, M.P.H., is program manager for Tobacco
Free Communities| Delaware, Otsego & Schoharie;
Barbara Doyle is a program
specialist for the organization.