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University to ban all tobacco products in January 2019

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The University at Albany announced last Tuesday that a complete ban on tobacco products on campus will be implemented in January 2019 – an initiative funded by a $20,000 grant.

CVS Health, in partnership with the American Cancer Society and The Truth Initiative, granted the University at Albany Foundation $20,000 last fall as part of CVS’ “Tobacco-Free Generation Campus Initiative,” a campaign to encourage college campuses to ban tobacco products.

Much of UAlbany’s tobacco-free initiative will be focused on marketing and informing the campus of the new policy.

How exactly the ban on cigarettes, vapes, hookahs and more might be enforced is still to be determined, according to co-chair of the Tobacco-Free Steering Committee Dr. Dolores M. Cimini.

UAlbany communications specialist Kelsey Butz said Friday that none of the grant money has been spent, but that the university expects to use it for putting up signs, raising awareness, and funding resources to help students and employees quit smoking.

Two weeks ago at a Student Association meeting, Dr. Cimini, her fellow co-chair Estela Rivero, and Middle Earth President Nicole Bulanchuk presented several reasons why the campus should ban tobacco.

“Smoking isn’t good for you, let’s not beat around the bush,” said Bulanchuk. “So the fact that we’re saying ‘UAlbany you are now tobacco-free,’ what does that mean for the tobacco user? It means that maybe you should work on being tobacco-free too.”

Bulanchuk cited a 2015 study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in which 68 percent of adult smokers reported that they wanted to quit. January’s tobacco ban, Bulanchuk and the initiative steering committee argue, will give UAlbany students and employees who smoke that extra push to quit.

Rich Sargent, a student accounts employee who has been smoking for 30 years, said he disagrees with the policy.

“I don’t know really; I understand where they’re coming from, but they’re taking rights away from people that are legal to smoke,” he said.

Sargent had tried to quit in the past, such as when his daughter was born, but he eventually always turned back to smoking.

“I’ve been thinking about quitting before I heard about it,” said Sargent, referring to the tobacco ban. “I definitely am gonna try, it will give me a reason to do it more.”

Brenda Seckerson, director of the Employee Assistance Program, said she is working on developing an on-campus support group for employees who wish to quit or manage cravings.

Dr. Cimini, who directs Middle Earth’s parent center, Behavioral Health and Applied Research, said that a tentative plan is to use Middle Earth members as ambassadors for the tobacco ban.

If these students saw someone using tobacco on campus, they would approach them, inform them of the new policy, and direct them to cessation services if they desired them.

“Enforcement is actually very small part of a policy that supports a tobacco free campus,” said Dr. Cimini.

A study of UAlbany students and employees set to be released a month from now is expected to bolster the campaign.

Meanwhile, the inclusion of e-cigarettes and vaping in the ban has caused some controversy among students.

Ryley Scott, a psychology sophomore, uses the popular vape product called Juul. While she said she doesn’t see complying with the ban next year being too hard for her, she disagrees with that part of the ban.

“I don’t even know if you should have to ban Juuls or vape products because they’re not really what is the issue,” said Scott. “I feel like the real issue is cigarettes.”

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Joe Hoffman is the managing editor for the Albany Student Press.

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