When SUNY Cortland adopted a campus-wide, tobacco-free policy in 2013, the College was building on its reputation as one of the most health conscious public institutions in New York state. That reputation was endorsed recently when SUNY Cortland was recognized on the Tobacco-Free U: 2015 New York State Dean’s List as one of only 13 higher education institutions to receive an A-plus rating from the American Cancer Society (ACS).
The grades, which scored 201 colleges and universities across the state, were awarded based on surveys that reported how effectively tobacco- or smoke-free policies held up at different institutions. The highest scoring schools demonstrated a commitment to compliance beyond simply instituting policies on paper, according to the report.
The College was one of two SUNY institutions to receive an A-plus score, along with SUNY Fredonia.
“The last question on our institutional survey showed that nearly 16 percent of students have either quit or reduced their use of tobacco, or found it easier to not use tobacco because of the policy,” said Dr. Devin Coppola, the medical director of Student Health Services and the co-chair of SUNY Cortland’s Tobacco Advisory Committee. “To me this is huge, and shows the power of change that the policy is making.”
When the College announced in 2011 its intention to become a completely tobacco-free campus on Jan. 1, 2013, it was just the second SUNY institution to do so, after Buffalo State College. Since that time, SUNY has adopted a system-wide tobacco-free policy, which took effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
The Tobacco-Free U report specifically credited New York state’s public colleges for their smoking and tobacco efforts. Of the 84 public institutions surveyed, 54 of them — or 64 percent — either had a smoke-free or tobacco-free policy in place or were working on one.
SUNY Cortland’s decision to take a comprehensive approach at tobacco use on campus was based on overwhelming scientific evidence assembled by the U.S. Surgeon General, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Environmental Protection Agency, and World Health Organization, which demonstrates that tobacco is a profound agent of deadly diseases and responsible for millions of deaths worldwide each year, both to tobacco users and non-users.
In a 2014 survey conducted by the College, 65 percent of the 369 respondents agreed that they observed a decrease in tobacco use on campus, while 68 percent noted an observable decrease in tobacco litter. SUNY Cortland continues to offer support for campus community members who wish to kick their smoking or tobacco use habits through the annual Great American Smoke-out and other avenues.
“In my opinion, there has been a dramatic decrease in the amount of tobacco use and smoking on campus,” Coppola said. “I used to see smokers several times every day on campus, and now that is a truly unusual case.”
Prepared by public relations intern Brandon Romagnoli