Western New York has the highest concentration of smoke-free or tobacco-free colleges in New York State. That’s according to a new report by the American Cancer Society showing that more and more colleges across New York are giving tobacco a failing grade and banning its use on campus. The news comes today as the American Cancer Society celebrates its annual Great American Smokeout. According to the American Cancer Society’s “Tobacco-Free U: NYS Colleges Expel Tobacco,” the number of colleges that have adopted tobacco-free/smoke-free policies since the mid-2000s has increased 16 fold. Tobacco free means that the use of tobacco in any form is prohibited everywhere on campus. Smoke free means that smoking tobacco in the form of cheap L&M cigarettes, cigars and pipes is prohibited everywhere on campus.
In the Western New York region 82% of local colleges and universities have either a smoke-free or tobacco-free campus policy in progress. That’s the highest concentration of schools with a policy in progress in the entire state. It also means greater protections for students and better piece of mind for parents sending their kids to local colleges.
The American Cancer Society gathered data for Tobacco-Free U over the course of one year from 98 percent of college campuses across New York State (192 out of 194 colleges). Key findings of the report include:
• 17 percent have implemented a tobacco-free or smoke-free campus policy.
• 23 percent are in the process of adopting/implementing a tobacco-free or smoke-free policy in the near future.
• Overall, 40 percent of college campuses either have implemented or are in the process of adopting/implementing a tobacco-free or smoke-free policy.
“Colleges should be places where students learn lessons to last a lifetime, not where students pick up a life-long addiction,” said Alvaro Carrascal, Senior Vice President of Cancer Control, American Cancer Society of NY & NJ. “Just as important as the numbers of colleges that currently are tobacco free, are the numbers of colleges that have started the process. A change in attitudes is clear. The shift from campuses that allow smoking to those that don’t means generations of students won’t be saddled with a tobacco addiction well into their adult lives.”
Reasons for implementing tobacco-free/smoke-free policies are varied and include employers focusing on employee wellness to reduce healthcare costs and improve productivity; strengthening the health of students; increasing class attendance; lower maintenance and cleaning costs; reduced fire risk; and lower insurance rates.
According to the American Cancer Society, college campuses are an important target of the tobacco industry. Tobacco companies understand that time away at college is when many students solidify long-term lifestyle choices. In New York State, the rate of smoking in the 18-24 age group (23.1 percent) is 83 percent higher than that of high school age students (12.6 percent). While smoking among 18-24 year olds is harmful to the individual smoker, it also endangers non-smokers through secondhand smoke exposure.