SUNY Cortland cuts tobacco, LMC continues discussions

Aubrey Zych, Co-News & Features Editor

 

On Jan. 1, SUNY Cortland became a completely tobacco-free campus, joining only eight other colleges in New York State in that category. In an effort to become one of the healthiest higher education institutions in the U.S., the school has placed a ban on not only smoking, but all tobacco-related substances on campus. The policy applies to anyone on campus, including students, faculty, staff and visitors.

According to Cathy Smith, SUNY Cortland Health Educator, becoming a tobacco-free college has been an ongoing process for several years. Students and faculty worked together to create an advisory committee, hold forums for students to express their opinions, conduct several surveys and promote programs to help users quit. The proposal was approved on July 25, 2011 to go into effect on January 1, 2013.

Since the announcement, students and faculty have been preparing for the switch. Reminders have been placed around campus and there was a countdown on the school’s TV channel leading up to the day the ban went into effect. Currently, signs are hanging around campus to remind students and enforce the new rules.

For the first few months, students caught using tobacco on campus will receive a warning, Erik Bitterbaum, President of SUNY Cortland said.

“We are an educational institution; we’re going to do a lot of education over the next few weeks,” Bitterbaum said.

Beginning in March, those caught using tobacco may be asked to leave campus. The ban will be in effect year-round, including during the Jets training camp on their campus this summer.

Smith says SUNY Cortland will enforce the policy through educational, not punitive, measures.

“The College is focusing on respect for the others and the environment, “she said. “The College has worked for one and a half years to help make the transition to a tobacco-free campus as effective and smooth as possible.”

“Enforcement of this policy will depend on the cooperation of all members of the SUNY Cortland campus community, both to comply and encourage others to do so,” the policy reads. “It is the responsibility of all members in the college community to observe this tobacco policy.”

Smith also added that the policy was written with respecting student smokers’ rights in mind. However, she believes students who don’t use tobacco also have the right to clean air and good health.

“Paramount for our campus was the public health concern for students, faculty and staff who were being affected by the secondhand effects of tobacco,” she said. “People using tobacco are often unaware of the effects of their tobacco use on others.  Students and faculty/staff with respiratory/asthmatic conditions, in particular, had indicated that they were affected by secondhand smoke, even outside. People confined to wheelchairs were especially unable to avoid these effects/situations.”

The school will provide numerous opportunities to help students quit and, in doing so, adjust to the policy more smoothly.

“We have offered and continue to offer weekly tobacco cessation classes for all campus members,” Smith said. “Our Student Health Service also offers free nicotine replacement therapy for students.” The college has also developed a website which offers resources, education and access to programs, and is working closely with the Cortland County Health Department’s organization, Tobacco-Free Cortland, which offers sources of support, information and tobacco-free programs.

Just under 40 miles from Le Moyne’s campus, SUNY Cortland’s new tobacco-free campus is bringing light to the ongoing discussion at Le Moyne about a smoke-free campus. Representatives from SGA are still at work, collecting data and receiving student input, to get a clearer idea about the possibility of a smoke-free Le Moyne.

“As more area schools decide to go tobacco or smoke-free, we at Le Moyne must seriously respect and consider those institutions’ reasoning and how they approach the issue,” Senior Sebastian Notaro, SGA president, said. “Although the Le Moyne community is certainly unique in its own way, the pros and cons of choosing to go tobacco or smoke-free are generally the same across all campuses.”

Notaro also added that while there is no definitive proposal yet, he, along with other members of the SGA, will be putting their efforts in full-swing this semester to receive student input on the idea.

“Within the coming weeks, a special campaign to gather the opinion of the Classes of 2015 and 2016, particularly on this issue, will be underway, as any decision regarding going smoke/tobacco-free would only affect them,” he said. “A renewed emphasis has been established on the prohibition of smoking within 50 feet of buildings.”

However, no large-scale smoking/tobacco policy has been approved by the President’s Cabinet at this time, Notaro said.

Despite the few schools listed as smoke-free or tobacco-free in New York, Smith believes the idea will catch on and spread to other colleges.

“I do believe that this is a trend and that many schools will go smoke-free and/or tobacco-free,” she said. At the time SUNY Cortland made the announcement, the SUNY chancellor ordered that all of its 64 campuses become tobacco-free by the end of 2013.