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Middle Earth urges help with ‘soft opening’ of tobacco ban

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Middle Earth urged the Student Association Wednesday to help students who smoke quit once the campus becomes tobacco-free.

Come January, the University at Albany will join the more than 1,700 colleges in banning tobacco products.

Items banned include: cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, and vaporizers and other such electronic smoking devices.

Guillermo Vega-Villegas, president of the Middle Earth Peer Assistance Program talked about what SA could do to help students who smoke after the change.

“It’s going to be a soft opening,” Vega-Villegas said. “We really don’t believe that students should be punished. What we are trying to do is really make them aware of the benefits of not using tobacco products.”

Last semester, the university launched a website containing information about the tobacco-free initiative.

The site contains resources for students and faculty that are trying to quit smoking, including phone numbers, live chat rooms, addresses to medical service centers along with a mobile app.

The program is chaired by Dr. Dolores Cimini, director of the Center for Behavioral Health Promotion and Applied Research.

Vega-Villegas wants to make the tobacco-free initiative a community effort, rather than an initiative coming from the top.

He wants SA to feel “empowered” once the initiative takes place to remind students and to politely ask them to put out their cigarettes or to refrain from smoking on campus.

Brendon Holdridge, SA senate chair, said that since the policy is already approved and planned, SA senators and the Constituent Relations committee will talk to students to “alleviate some of their concerns.”

Holdridge said he is aware that there are concerns over the soon to be implemented policy, but plans to speak to Sean Correia, chair of Constituent Relations, to see what they can do going forward.

Some students are concerned about the enforcement of this initiative.

“Unless they are going to station a cop on every corner, it will not be enforced,” said Joseph Gilfeather, a student at the university.

Gilfeather, who vapes, also expressed concerns over vape and e-cigarettes being included in the initiative.

The decision to make UAlbany a tobacco-free campus was announced last April by UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez.

For more information on the university’s tobacco-free initiative, you can visit: albany.edu/tobaccofree.

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