Open Forum: Tobacco Free UAlbany thNovember 29, 2011 3pm
Campus Center Terrace Lounge
Vice President Chris Bouchard made introductory comments on the history of the Tobacco Free policy discussion here on the UAlbany campus. Referencing SUNY Chancellor’s Healthier NY
movement, VP Bouchard also provided the group with some insights on the likelihood of a SUNY-wide Tobacco Free policy. She indicated that the discussion of a Tobacco Free campus prior to a SUNY-wide mandate may allow for better communication with the stakeholders, campus preparation, and a stronger implementation plan catered to our unique UAlbany community. VP Bouchard introduced the open forum liaisons:
o Dr. Michael Seserman , Director of Strategic Health Alliances of the American
o Dr. Peter Vellis, Medical Director of the University at Albany Health Center It was noted the University Life Council (ULC) is charged with gathering information, thoughts, opinions and an overall campus feel for the policy. Today’s forum serves as an open platform to
continue to collect this material. Based on the information gathered, ULC will make recommendations to the President on further pursuing the matter. The floor was opened for comments:
; Smoke-filled offices and classrooms
o When there is failure to recognize/comply with current UAlbany smoking policies
(including: no smoking within 30 feet of exterior ventilation intakes and within 10
feet of building entrances, open windows, and in all exterior stairwells), it results in
contaminated air flow throughout the buildings.
o Health risks are alarming for all those involuntarily exposed, but especially
asthmatics, individuals with COPD or those with other repertory and cardiovascular
o Clarity was made by the health care professionals that cigarette smoke is not simply
an irritant, but rather categorized by the U.S. Surgeon General a Class A carcinogen,
the same as asbestos.
; Enforcement of the current smoking policies
o There is currently lack of enforcement throughout campus
o Fundamentally, it is difficult to enforce- as it is not against the law, but rather in the
o This is of particular concern for smoking in high intake (as addressed above) and high
traffic areas where smokers may gather an expose passerby’s- including library,
campus center, earth science
o With regards to approaching someone who is smoking or a group of individuals who
are smoking those attending the forum reported conversations ranging from respectful
and compliant to vulgar, aggressive and violent.
o In concern for the later, violators of the current smoking policy may not be
approached, reprimanded, etc.
o It was suggested that Social Norms on the UAlbany campus may have folks believing
the majority of the campus smokes, when in reality less than a quarter of the
population does. As someone in the majority may be more willing to approach
someone in the minority, exposing social norms can play a role in enforcement.
; Smokers’/Non Smokers’ Rights
o Concerns were expressed that a Tobacco Free policy would be an infringement of a
smokers right to have a cigarette
o Discussions then lead to non-smokers right to not be exposed to a carcinogen. In
other words, employees/students right to have a healthy work/learning environment o It was said that the primary difference is that non-smokers do not physically impact
those around them. The same cannot be said of smokers (second-hand or tertiary
exposure to those around them).
o One of the vocalized goals of a Tobacco Free policy is not about taking away ones
rights, but rather to protect the health of those exposed.
; Other healthy campus initiatives
o To support Healthy NY campaign, initiatives for decreased car emissions and sugary
drinks/soda were suggested.
o The question then arose, why tobacco over these alternatives?
o It was suggest that perhaps the Chancellor is targeting the Tobacco Free campaign as
smoking it is the #1 cause of preventable death in the United States.
o Health experts noted that 75% of current smokers want to quit. In addition, half have
attempted to quit in the past year.
o It was suggested that a Tobacco Free policy could be the tipping point/incentive a
smoker needs to stop smoking.
o It was reported that campuses that have gone Smoke/Tobacco Free, the number of
individuals who smoke decreased.
o Recognizing that nicotine is an addiction, if the campus were to go Tobacco Free
UAlbany would provide emotional and physical support to those looking to quit (i.e.
Employee Assistance Program, University Counseling Center, University Health
Center, American Cancer Society)
o The discussions lead into the topic of penalties for smoking on campus… if a
Tobacco Free policy was enacted, what could be the potential consequence? o Though the decision would ultimately be drawn outside this group, it was suggested
that the policy would fall under the Community Rights and Responsibilities section of
the student handbook. Reported violators of the code of conduct would presumably
go through the campus Judicial Office and sanctioned according.
o It was suggested that the sanctions would likely not be the primary deterrent, but
rather the social stigma. Smokers on campus would be far fewer. It would be very
obvious they were in violation, and thus more approachable by a passerby. The peer
influence/social norm would change the culture on campus to accept smoking as a
; Implementation Timeline
o The question was raised that if ULC were to move forward with recommendations to
the President, and a Tobacco Free Task Force were to be initiated on the UAlbany
campus, what would be the turnaround time for implementation?
o While this decision would be up to the taskforce, it was noted that other SUNY and
comparable institutions enacted a two to three year performance plan. o Those seeking more immediate action suggested that perhaps just the podium could
move towards Tobacco Free
o Another suggestion was to move to Smoking Gazebos. Concerns here are costs,
feasibility and enforcement. Once the snow comes, it was asked of the group if we
really anticipate folks trekking it out to designated smoking locations (as there is lack
of compliance already and the guidelines are only 10 feet).
o It was made clear that a Tobacco Free campus would not take place overnight, but
rather a gradual culture change for the university.
o If a two year plan were in place, this would give the Tobacco Free Task Force plenty
of time to alert current students, as well as incoming students.
o References were made to the university changes that occurred when the dorms on
campus went smoke free (with it, the sales of tobacco products were no longer made
available in the university bookstore). Residency rates on campus did not change, nor
did sales in the bookstore.
o It was noted that none of the current 530+ institutions that had gone Tobacco Free
had seen a decrease in enrollment.
o When bars and restaurants went smoke free, it was predicted that sales would
decrease. In reality, the financial experts reported increased sales.
; Potential Barriers to UAlbany going Tobacco Free
o East Campus- owned by Research, not SUNY. Also rent to outside entities. Would
they be held accountable for the non-smoking?
o How would this policy impact faculty and staff? Enforcement and sanctions for
; Closing points
o ULC will continue to encourage and explore this topic and make recommendations
o If enacted, the policy will not change the campus overnight nor will it come without
adequate communication to the campus-wide community. It is expected that this will
be a gradual, phased policy that will be specifically designed for the UAlbany
community. tho Reminder, there will be a second open forum tomorrow, November 30, 2011 at 3pm
in the Campus Center Terrace Lounge.