Southern Connecticut State University has adopted a campus-wide policy that prohibits smoking and tobacco use.
During the past year, a representative university sub-committee has been developing a proposal to make our campus tobacco-free. After a great deal of research, campus outreach, community input and discussion in open forums, the recommendations were presented to me in late March. The recommendations were supported widely by students, staff and faculty and subsequently have been endorsed by the university’s Senior Administration.
As of August 25, 2015, Southern will join more than 1,000 colleges and universities across the state and the nation to declare a tobacco-free environment on campus. This means that smoking and tobacco use will be prohibited in all facilities and outdoor areas of campus, without exception. Applicable 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the policy will apply to all students, faculty and staff, along with outside contractors, volunteers, visitors and members of the general public.
Reflecting our mission to foster a safe, healthy and respectful environment on campus, the policy was the result of a letter from U.S. Sen. Christopher Murphy that encouraged Southern to join the national Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched the initiative in 2012, targeting colleges and universities in its campaign because about one-third of young adults between the ages of 18 to 24 smoke.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC): “tobacco is the number one preventable cause of death” in the United States, with cigarette smoking causing more than 480,000 deaths annually. The CDC reports that smoking causes about 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths in men and women, and a lifetime smoker is at high risk of developing a range of potentially lethal diseases.
Southern’s policy has been designed to help reduce health risks and related employee healthcare costs. It also will increase productivity, reduce campus litter and prepare our students for careers in increasingly tobacco-free work environments. The university will become the second public institution in the state – after Gateway Community College – to mandate a tobacco-free environment, and the introduction of the policy will correspond to similar initiatives at the University of New Haven and the City of New Haven (at city buildings, parks, playgrounds and school grounds).
For the purposes of Southern’s policy, “smoking” means inhaling, exhaling, burning, carrying or possessing any lighted tobacco product, including cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and other lit tobacco products. Along with cigarettes, the policy prohibits the use of electronic cigarettes and tobacco products on university property, including smokeless tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco, cigars, pipe tobacco, hookah and any other device using smoke or vapor.
Despite almost universal support for this program from campus leadership groups, it is understandable that adhering to the new policy may be challenging for some members of our community, and therefore a cessation program supporting individuals in their efforts to quit smoking will be available. Indeed, the next 12 months will focus on education and awareness, while we develop our enforcement protocol. Compliance with the policy – and encouraging others to do so – will be a shared responsibility of all Southern students, employees and visitors.
I thank the members of the Health and Safety Committee, chaired by University Police Chief Joseph Dooley, and the members of the Tobacco-Free Sub-Committee, chaired by Dr. Diane Morgenthaler, Director of the Student Health and Wellness Center, for their diligence in exploring the challenges and benefits of becoming a tobacco-free campus. As a result of their efforts, we have a policy that represents the best ideas from many in our community: a policy that will help to ensure that Southern’s campus is a healthy environment in which to live, work and learn for our students, faculty and staff.