College smoking ban representative of larger tobacco-free New York movement

When there were first rumors about Vassar becoming a smoke-free campus, everyone seemed to have an opinion regarding the issue. Conversations were arising and students took to Facebook to post statuses regarding their opinions; some were positive, while others stood firm on allowing smoking to continue on campus.

In April of 2013, it was officially decided by the Committee on College Life that Vassar would be banning smoking on its campus in June 2015.

In the fall following this announcement, some students from Vassar College were not pleased with the new decision made by the school, and it appeared some students were going to show their opposition for the new policy in any way possible.

Many made the argument that the College should not be able to control students’ smoking habits if they are following the rules of standing the appropriate distance away from a building, and some students even claimed the ban would take away their freedom as a student on this campus.

Supporters of the ban have claimed that the current rules regarding smoking on campus, such as that one must smoke 50 feet away from a facility entrance, should be better enforced as a way of regulating rather than banning smoking. However, many people remain neutral on this issue, saying it really doesn’t affect them either way.

What a lot of students may not know is that this ban is essentially in conjunction with the Tobacco-Free SUNY policy that has already started (Jan 2014). The policy, which was installed by the trustees of the State University of New York, bans smoking any place on or near its 64 campuses (CBSNY, State University Of New York To Ban Smoking On All Campuses Starting In 2014, 06.13.2012). The trustees claim that the health of students, as well as that of New Yorkers, is their number one concern and that is the main reason the ban was put into place, saying “The health of New Yorkers is essential to the state’s economic success and few organizations, public or private, can address New York’s health care challenges as powerfully as SUNY” (SUNY, Tobacco-Free SUNY, 2014). While many students were opinionated on the SUNY ban, it is still successfully in effect at all 64 campuses across the New York state.

The tobacco-free movement has also taken a national turn this week, with a major convenience store removing all tobacco products from its stores nation wide. At midnight on Tuesday, September 3, all 7,700 CVS stores nationwide stopped selling tobacco products in any capacity.

This is the first major chain store to nationally remove all tobacco products from their merchandise. The company estimated that the decision would cut its overall sales by $2 billion (NYTimes, CVS Stores Stop Selling All Tobacco Products, 09.3.2014). However, the higher ups at CVS do not seem to have a problem with losing money and claim they have a bigger duty to prevent unnecessary illness. “We’re at the forefront of what we all see as a changing health care landscape,” Larry J. Merlo, the chief executive of CVS Health said in a recent statement. In fact, CVS has now officially changed its name to “CVS Health.” CVS has 880 health clinics nationwide and hopes to open more throughout the year. They  believe selling tobacco products would go against their image as a health care provider.

In light of CVS removing tobacco products, Walgreens has also committed to stop selling tobacco products by the end of 2014, but as of now, their stores are still stocked (VOX, Here’s why CVS stopped selling cigarettes today, 09.03.2014).

The act of removing of tobacco products from college campuses, and now convenience stores, only appears to be growing. While this all seems like it is happening so quickly, talk of tobacco removal has been ongoing for years now.

The removal, while shocking in the sense that words were finally put into action, should not be a surprise to anyone. A commercial put out by thetruth.com even makes a claim that we could be the generation that ends smoking, stating that in 2000, 23 percent of teens smoked and now, in 2014, only 9 percent of teens smoke. With new bans, can this claim actually become a reality in the near future?

It has been suggested that soon, the state of New York will recommend that all colleges within the state become tobacco-free, and a national movement is starting to take. Vassar College has therefore appeared to implement their ban before New York State would become involved and is following the new tobacco-free trend.

There is no telling if the upcoming ban once in effect will have influence on campus climate or provide for us to have a healthier campus in general, but this tobacco-free movement is right around the corner. While this decision has given approximately a year and two months warning to Vassar students, are students really ready for this ban to take place? Ready or not, here we go.

-Delaney Fischer ’15 is a neuroscience major.

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