Frequently Asked Questions: SUNY Cortland Tobacco-free Policy1

Note that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is offering consumers an online tool to report health problems stemming from using e-cigarettes, cigars, cigarettes, hookah tobacco and other tobacco-related products.  Learn more about this initiative.

1. When did SUNY Cortland’s tobacco-free policy go into effect?
Recognizing that success depends on adequate preparation, a transition time in excess of one year was built into the implementation plan, so that SUNY Cortland could become a 100 percent tobacco-free campus Jan. 1, 2013.

2. What is the tobacco-free policy at SUNY Cortland?
SUNY Cortland’s tobacco-free policy provides guidelines and actions to help establish a healthier campus culture by supporting and promoting a tobacco-free environment.

3. Why is SUNY Cortland going tobacco-free?
As a leader in health and wellness, SUNY Cortland understands that health is as important as education. SUNY Cortland is dedicated to providing a safe, healthy, comfortable and productive living and learning environment for the entire campus community. Among SUNY Cortland's campus priorities are to become a national leader in the promotion of the physical, emotional, cultural and social well-being of all community members and to provide outstanding opportunities and support for healthy living.

4. What tobacco products are covered by this policy?
Tobacco is defined as all tobacco and tobacco-derived products intended for human consumption, including but not limited to cigarettes, cigars, hookah or water-pipe devices, pipes, smokeless products, clove cigarettes, bidis, kreteks, electronic cigarettes, smokeless tobacco (chew) and snus.

5. To whom does this policy apply?
Every person who comes to SUNY Cortland, including students, families, faculty, staff, alumni, volunteers, contractors and service representatives or any other visitors.

6. Where is the policy in effect?
All forms of tobacco use are prohibited everywhere within the perimeter of all SUNY Cortland property, both indoors and outdoors, as well as in on-campus student housing, College-owned vehicles and in any vehicle on SUNY Cortland property. Additionally, all forms of tobacco use are prohibited at all College-sponsored, off-campus events.

7. Do employees, students and visitors have to quit using tobacco?
No. This policy simply means that no one can use tobacco products on the SUNY Cortland campus or at any College-sponsored, off-campus event. To feel more comfortable while on campus, those who continue to use tobacco may use various research-based forms of nicotine replacement therapy. See “Need Help Quitting?" for additional information. Because of the addictive nature of tobacco use and the understanding that breaking that addiction can be extremely difficult for many people, the College is making every reasonable effort to assist those employees and students who do wish to stop using tobacco.

8. Are other colleges and universities tobacco-free?
On June, 12, 2012, The State University of New York Board of Trustees passed a resolution to support a “Tobacco-Free SUNY” policy and the development of New York State legislation that bans the use of tobacco on grounds and facilities and in vehicles owned, leased or controlled by SUNY. The City University of New York (CUNY) system implemented their tobacco-free policy with the start of the Fall 2012 semester.

Per the New York State Tobacco Free Colleges initiative, as of January 1, 2015, at least 1,514 campuses are 100% smoke free indoors and outdoors, with no exemptions, including residential housing facilities.  Of those, 1,014 (two-thirds) have a 100% tobacco free policy and 587 specifically do not permit the use of e-cigarettes anywhere on campus.

9. Why can’t there be a designated smoking or tobacco use area? 
Being tobacco-free supports the SUNY Cortland campus priority of wellness while preserving respect for others and the environment. The policy prepares students for increasingly tobacco-free workplaces. Designated smoking areas have been found not to work as people tend to stray from these areas while using tobacco.

10. How can SUNY Cortland justify prohibiting smokeless tobacco when it does not affect the health of those around the individual using the product?
Smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative. There is a significant burden placed on society when tobacco users confront health-related issues such as oral cancers. Additionally, spitting that sometimes accompanies smokeless tobacco use is unsanitary.

11. What is my responsibility as a campus community member in regard to the tobacco-free policy?
Everyone’s responsibility as a campus community member is to comply with this policy in a courteous, respectful and cooperative manner. When people politely approach a person who does not observe the policy, most individuals will comply. Please refer to suggestions in question 13.

Information cards that outline the policy and offer cessation help also may be given to violators. They are available from Human Resources by calling 607-753-2302 or they can be printed from this pdf (side 1, side2).

12. What should I say and do if I see someone violating the policy?
The policy is driven by respect for others and the environment and relies on the thoughtfulness, consideration and cooperation of tobacco users and non-users for its success. It is the responsibility of all members in the college community to observe this tobacco-free policy. Always approach a person who does not observe the policy in a kind, compassionate way.

Here are some possible scripts to use to assist in compliance with the policy.

Sample Script #1:
Situation: You see a person using tobacco products on campus property.
Response: (As you extend your hand in greeting, say) "Hello, my name is _______, and I (work, am a student) here. What’s your name?  I’m pleased to meet you. Just so you know, we are now a tobacco-free campus which means no tobacco products can be used anywhere on our grounds. We would appreciate it if you would not use tobacco products while on our campus. Thank you for your cooperation."

Sample Script #2:
Question: "Where am I allowed to smoke?"
Response: "Smoking and other tobacco products are not allowed anywhere on campus.
This new policy, effective Jan. 1, 2013, is meant to promote better health in our students and employees. Those needing to smoke or use other tobacco products leave the campus to do so. We have nicotine replacement therapy available at the Student Health Service. Such products also are covered under health insurance for staff who subscribe.

Use of nicotine replacement products such as patches, gum, lozenges and prescribed medications may help some individuals to feel more comfortable while at work on campus where use of tobacco products is inappropriate.

Sample Script #3:
For Vendors and Visitors: "We are proud of our College’s commitment to wellness and are letting everyone know that the SUNY Cortland campus is a tobacco-free environment as of Jan. 1, 2013. There will be no use of tobacco products on any property, grounds or parking areas. Thank you for respecting our policy."

Sample Script #4:
For registration, pre-admission and office staff who are speaking to students and families prior to a SUNY Cortland campus visit: "I'd like to let you know in advance that the SUNY Cortland campus is a tobacco-free environment as of Jan. 1, 2013. Use of tobacco products will not be permitted on any property, grounds, parking areas or at any campus-sponsored events. Thank you for respecting our policy."

13. What if someone continues to use tobacco after I have reminded them about the policy?
You may report repeated student violators to the Student Conduct Office and employees to Human Resources or ASC if an ASC employee. Other violators including visitors will be reported to the University Police Department.

14. How is the tobacco-free policy being enforced?
The intent of this policy is to be preventive rather than punitive. For employees and students, violations of this policy will be addressed through educational and corrective measures. Educational measures include referral to tobacco-cessation programs, tobacco treatment and supportive coaching. In instances where a person refuses to observe the policy, a student will be referred to the Student Conduct Office and an employee will be reported to their supervisor.

15. What was and is being done to make employees and students aware of this policy?
Members of the Tobacco-Free Advisory Committee have presented to and interacted with a wide variety of students and employees. Open meetings, presentations and publications have been distributed throughout campus.  Continual reminders are inserted into communications with students, employees, and visitors. The following is a list of some awareness efforts:

  • Campus survey
  • Focus groups
  • Open meetings
  • Sandwich Seminar
  • Tabling in Corey Union
  • Great American Smoke Out Press Conference
  • Articles in the Dragon Chronicle student newspaper, Cortland Standard, Speak Magazine
  • Tobacco-Free logo contest
  • Announcement in The Bulletin
  • Campus-wide emails from President Bitterbaum
  • Verbal announcement by President Bitterbaum to faculty/staff at fall and spring meetings
  • FreshStart Tobacco Cessation Quit Support Group
  • Student handbook
  • College website
  • Televisions around campus
  • Annual Cortland Counties Community Forum
  • Student Government Association Senate meeting
  • Relay for Life
  • Tobacco Free Policy was reviewed and approved by the President’s Cabinet (July 25, 2011)

16. What is SUNY Cortland doing to help employees who want to quit using tobacco products?
The Human Resources Office sends periodic emails highlighting insurance benefits and opportunities for employees.

The FreshStart program was offered initially each semester beginning in 2012 to offer group support for those who are making the decision to quit. We also offered a Quit and Win Challenger during 2013-2014 to offer prize incentives (other than becoming tobacco free) for those who successfully ceased tobacco use.  Anyone interested in participating in the FreshStart tobacco cessation program should contact Marie Blanden at marie.blanden@cortland.edu

For more information, see the Need Help Quitting? section of this site.

17. What is the SUNY Cortland doing to help students who want to quit using tobacco products? 

  • SUNY Cortland's Student Health Service provides Nicotine Replacement Therapy.
  • The FreshStart (quit support group) program is open to students.
  • Quit mentors are available.

18. What resources are available to help me quit?
There are many resources available both on and off campus.

19. Why are e-cigarettes included in this policy?
Electronic cigarettes are not a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes. The FDA has found several safety concerns regarding the use of these products, which are designed to deliver variable amounts of nicotine.

Many health proponents, most notably the World Health Organization, have expressed serious concerns about the adverse health effects of electronic cigarettes. These organizations, including the FDA, cite a serious lack of safety data regarding the inhalation of known hazardous chemicals such as propylene glycol (found in antifreeze) and tobacco specific nitrosamines (which cause cancer) that have been found in e-cigs when tested. We know these chemicals are harmful. The FDA does not regulate e-cigarettes and does not consider them to be a safe nicotine delivery system. E-cigarettes are currently banned for import by the FDA.

SUNY Cortland's tobacco-free policy aims to promote a healthy environment, including cleaner, safer air where everyone can live, work and learn. Prohibiting electronic cigarettes is consistent with the aim of the policy.

20. Why are designated smoking areas not included in this policy?
Designated smoking areas are not consistent with respect for the environment or wellness. The aim of SUNY Cortland's tobacco-free policy is to support a culture of wellness and genuine respect for the well-being of all members of the campus community. Creating smoking areas sends a message that tobacco use is acceptable. Rather than creating smoking areas, the university promotes healthy lifestyles and provides assistance for students and employees who are ready to quit and for those who need to manage their addiction symptoms while on campus. Also, designated smoking areas create confusion and are a compliance challenge. Experience on other college campuses and best practice for tobacco policy pointed us in the direction of a comprehensive campus-wide tobacco-free policy with no designated smoking areas. Rarely do people comply with designated smoking areas.

 1SUNY Cortland Tobacco Advisory Committee wishes to acknowledge that answers to these FAQ’s were based on information gathered from the following campus websites: University at Buffalo, University of Kentucky, North Carolina, and Washington University in St. Louis.

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