CUNY Trustees Expand Policy Prohibiting Use of Tobacco Making CUNY the Largest Smoke-Free Public University System In the United States

January 24, 2011 | The University

The Board of Trustees of The City University of New York has approved an expanded tobacco policy that will make CUNY the largest smoke-free public university system in the United States. The policy prohibits the use of tobacco on all grounds and facilities under CUNY’s jurisdiction — indoor and outdoor– as well as tobacco industry promotions and marketing on campus properties, and tobacco industry sponsorship of athletic events and athletes.

The Board’s resolution updates and supersedes the University’s previous policy, which prohibited smoking inside all facilities, including vehicles operated by the University. The revised tobacco policy must be implemented University-wide no later than September 4, 2012.

The action was approved by the Board at its meeting on January 24, 2011.

In a joint statement, Board Chairperson Benno Schmidt and Chancellor Goldstein said: “The harmful effects of tobacco use are well known. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the world today — and in New York City — and this action will further reduce exposure to tobacco and improve public health. As the nation’s largest urban public university, as a source of thousands of health-professions graduates, and as the home of the new CUNY School of Public Heath, CUNY has an opportunity — and a responsibility — to set appropriate standards as an example for universities seeking to protect the health of their students and employees.”

“I heartily congratulate the Board at CUNY for taking this groundbreaking step to protect the health of its students, faculty and staff,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner. “I urge members of the CUNY community who smoke to use this as an opportunity to quit, as it is the single most important step you can take to improve your health. The Health Department looks forward to supporting CUNY as it implements this pioneering policy. Because of the Board’s actions, the CUNY community will be a healthier place to work and learn.”

Smoking-related deaths from cancer, heart and lung diseases and other conditions account for more than 440,000 premature deaths each year, about one in five deaths in the United States. The U.S. Surgeon General has determined that exposure to secondhand smoke is dangerous to health and that reducing exposure will save lives and reduce health expenditures. Research further shows that any exposure to secondhand smoke — even outdoors — has harmful biological consequences. In addition, removing all smoking opportunity facilitates quitting, and research demonstrates that 70 percent of smokers wish to quit. Therefore, expanding the University’s policy will achieve a dual effect: motivating current smokers to cease smoking, and safeguarding CUNY students, faculty, and staff—more than 85 percent of whom are nonsmokers—from the toxic effects of secondhand smoke.

New York City has been a national leader in acting to reduce smoking. Through education, taxation, support of cessation programs, and expanding tobacco-free spaces, the city has helped to reduce smoking rates below national levels. All New York City public schools and medical facilities are already tobacco-free both inside and outside buildings.

The CUNY Board’s action comes at a time when an ever-increasing number of colleges and universities are instituting tobacco-free policies. As of January 2, 2011, at least 466 colleges and universities had enacted smoke-free or tobacco-free policies for their entire campuses, indoors and out.

At Chancellor Matthew Goldstein’s request, Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and University Provost Alexandra W. Logue led the University Advisory Committee on Tobacco Policy that researched and developed the recommendations that helped form the new policy. The Committee, which included faculty, staff and students, conducted an extensive outreach program including the establishment of a website to receive input from the University community.

“Part of our job is to promote the basic values of 21st-century higher education in the United States,” said Executive Vice Chancellor Logue. “These values include cultivating respect for others, emphasizing the importance of health and wellness, supporting environmental sustainability, and preparing students for professional success in workplaces that are, increasingly, tobacco-free.”

Under the leadership of University Director for Mental Health and Wellness Services Luis Manzo, CUNY will support the new policy by providing training, information, and other resources across the University system. Each college, as well as the Central Office, will be expected to submit college-specific implementation plans, allowing for the specific needs of each campus, for review and approval by the Chancellery by no later than June 30, 2011.

The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in New York City in 1847 as The Free Academy, the University’s 23 institutions include 11 senior colleges, six community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law, the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the CUNY School of Public Health. The University serves 262,000 academic credit students and 269,808 adult, continuing and professional education students. College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program for 32,500 high school students, is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 300 high schools throughout the five boroughs of New York City. The University offers online baccalaureate degrees through the School of Professional Studies and an individualized baccalaureate through the CUNY Baccalaureate Degree. More than one million visitors and two million page views are served each month by www.cuny.edu, the University’s website.