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The Statesman


Stony Brook to ban tobacco on campuses starting in 2016

Will Georges, senior biology major, smokes a cigarette outside the Union. Will is favorable of the smoking ban that is scheduled to come into effect in the spring semester, as he wants to quit smoking. TAYLOR HA/THE STATESMAN
Will Georges, senior biology major, smokes a cigarette outside the Student Union. Georges favors the smoking ban that is scheduled to come into effect in January, as he wants to quit smoking. TAYLOR HA/THE STATESMAN

The use of tobacco products will be banned on all Stony Brook campuses starting Jan. 1, 2016, according to the tobacco-free policy approved by the Office of the President in July.

This policy will prohibit the use of tobacco products in all indoor and outdoor locations as well as in university transportation vehicles. The sale and advertisement of tobacco products will also be prohibited.

Some of the tobacco products defined in the policy include but are not limited to: cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, hookah-smoked products, and oral and smokeless tobacco.

This tobacco-free initiative has been in the works since 2012 when the State University of New York Board of Trustees passed a resolution that called for the enactment of tobacco-free policies on SUNY campuses. Stony Brook was prepared to go forward with a tobacco-free policy in accordance with a proposed SUNY-wide tobacco ban.

However, the New York State Legislature failed to pass the bill during the 2013 legislative session. After that, Stanley and his then-Chief Deputy, Edward Summers, announced they planned to go forth with a tobacco-ban even without a legislative ban.

Stony Brook would not be the first SUNY campus to implement a tobacco-free policy campus-wide. Currently, 11 other SUNY campuses are tobacco-free, including SUNY Buffalo and SUNY Oswego.

When asked about their thoughts on Stony Brook becoming a smoke-free campus, students were divided by the issue. Several students said they thought the idea comes with good intentions but believe enforcement of the ban would be difficult.

“If people are addicted to nicotine, getting them to stop is going to be extremely difficult,” said Mitchell Swerdloff, a sophomore biochemistry major and a smoker.

But some non-smokers disagreed.

“I can understand why people would say it’s stepping on their freedom to choose to smoke but you’re also choosing to step on the freedoms of the people who choose not to smoke,” says Nicole Lado, a freshman women’s and gender studies major.

“The main priority is that you shouldn’t jeopardize other people’s health,” says Justin Cheung, a sophomore chemical engineering major.

Many students, smokers and nonsmokers alike, contend that having designated smoke-areas would be a good alternative solution.

Swerdloff suggests having designated smoking areas in lower traffic areas:  “For example, if there are two routes to get someplace, have the lower traffic route include a designated smoke spot; that way, nonsmokers would have the option to walk the other way.”

However, the university has decided to not have designated areas for smokers on campus once the policy takes effect, Lauren Sheprow, the university’s spokeswoman, said in an email. Stony Brook came to this decision after observing other colleges and consulting an expert from the National Center for Tobacco Policy.

The administration believes that making a clean break from tobacco and smoking product use on campus would help to avoid ambiguity and confusion, Sheprow said.

On enforcement, Sheprow said that the policy is not intended to be punitive for smokers or to force them to stop smoking. Instead, the policy’s mission is meant to educate and promote the reduction of tobacco use of individuals on campus.

Sheprow noted that the university offers tobacco cessation program services for students who would like to quit tobacco use.

The Student Health Center has a Nicotine Replacement Therapy program that offers nicotine gum and patches to students at no cost. Additionally, the university’s employee wellness initiative, “Healthier U,” includes a free smoking cessation program that offers techniques to stop smoking as well as stress management and relaxation methods.

Swerdloff has been aware of the cessation programs but believes they are not widely publicized. That might change soon with the enactment of the new policy.

To help promote the policy, Stony Brook will be launching a tobacco-free website that will provide resources and information related to the tobacco-free campus initiative, Sheprow said. Additional promotional materials are in development.

Swerdloff contends that the policy will not change his mind: “I’ll quit smoking when I’m ready to quit smoking, not based off a policy that the university is enacting.”

Lado, however, is more optimistic about the policy. She said “it’ll put smokers in a tough position but it’ll give them the extra push to quit.”

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  • C

    ComeOnSep 21, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    I hate to be a cynic here, but this is of no benefit to the students and of every benefit to the university. Now they can list on every brochure and piece of university advancement literature “we are a tobacco-free campus,” while Pres. Stanley bows and roses are thrown at his feet. It looks great on paper, but it sucks for all of the students who smoke. While I agree that the current system in place is silly (no smoking in front of buildings) because no one follows it, and it isn’t enforced. If we were being reasonable here on both parties side, we would have designated smoking areas like they do in most public places that are away from general student buildings and walkways and it would be strictly enforced. The unfortunate smoker population gets their fix and the non-smokers don’t deal with the smell or litter. Students who smoke and live on campus will continue to smoke (because, duh), but now they’ll have to go off into the woods or other hidden areas with tons of flammable debris. If the ban causes a few students to quit, that’s a wonderful thing, but If the schools true motivation were students’ health, there would have been a long roll-up to this event with smoking cessation flyers/advertisements for programs for the students. If they think throwing nicotine gum and patches at students is going to make them quit smoking, they’re delusional. Just one more example of SBU putting their interests in front of students. The wheel keeps on turning.

  • V

    Vinny GracchusSep 19, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    Reject smoking bans. Roll back this ban, there is no threat from second hand smoke to others outdoors (actually there is essentially none indoors either).

    • A

      Aaron GershoffSep 20, 2015 at 12:51 pm

      I’m a smoker and I KNOW you’re wrong re: second-hand smoke. Many studies have been done…it leads to increased asthma attacks, decreased immune response to airborne disease, and it simply kills the lungs.

      Now, they should still roll back the ban…there’s no reason for a government body to mother anyone, especially a college campus.

      • V

        Vinny GracchusSep 20, 2015 at 1:17 pm

        Aaron, I am glad you oppose the ban but you have been mislead on the effects of second hand smoke (SHS). There are actually a number of studies that show the risk of SHS is non-existent or severely overstated.

        One large prospective study (76,000 women) presented in 2013 showed that while there is a strong association between smoking and lung cancer no such link has been demonstrated with second hand smoke. The direct quote is “the fact that passive smoking may not be strongly associated with lung cancer points to a need to find other risk factors for the disease [in nonsmokers].” The study was presented by Stanford University researchers at the June 2013 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. (See Peres, J, “No Clear Link Between Passive Smoking and Lung Cancer,”J Natl Cancer Inst, 2013.)

        • V

          Vinny GracchusSep 20, 2015 at 1:19 pm

          In addition, the following study looked at 38 years worth of data. James E, Kabat Geoffrey C, Smith Davey. Environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality in a prospective study of Californians, 1960-98 BMJ 2003; 326:1057. This study found “No significant associations were found for current or former exposure to environmental tobacco smoke before or after adjusting for seven confounders and before or after excluding participants with pre-existing disease. No significant associations were found during the shorter follow up periods of 1960-5, 1966-72, 1973-85, and 1973-98.” “Conclusions: The results do not support a causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality, although they do not rule out a small effect. The association between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and coronary heart disease and lung cancer may be considerably weaker than generally believed.”