PAUL SMITHS — As of Aug. 1, 2014, Paul Smith’s College will go tobacco-free.
“Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of death in the United States,” college President John W. Mills said in a statement.
He pointed to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control that indicate more than 443,000 people a year die from tobacco use in the United States. And 8 million-plus suffer from tobacco-related illnesses.
Tobacco-free, the statement said, is defined as no use of cigarettes, chewing tobacco or other tobacco products on campus or other college properties, including the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center.
To ease the transition, the college is looking into how to make more resources available for people who would like to stop using tobacco products, in addition to those already offered on campus.
Paul Smith’s will be joining 825 other campuses that have banned smoking — a figure that includes more than 600 that have gone completely tobacco-free or have announced plans to do so, according to the group Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.
Along with health reasons, Mills cited several other factors in the decision to go smoke-free.
“Part of our mission as an institution of higher learning is to not only foster learning on campus, but also to give our students, staff and faculty the tools to make the world a more sustainable place — economically, socially and environmentally,” he said. “Tobacco use doesn’t fit with this commitment. It is bad for the environment and costs tens of billions of dollars a year with regards to health care and lost productivity.”
A recent National College Health Assessment at Paul Smith’s indicated 17 percent of the students there had smoked cigarettes over the past 30 days.
It did not include other forms of tobacco, however.
The college, said Director of Communications Kenneth Aaron, had conducted its own online survey of faculty, staff and students a few months earlier, asking, “Do you use tobacco in any form on campus property?”
With 259 replies, the result showed 35 percent said yes.
“I’m a little suspect of those numbers,” Aaron said, noting the online format far from guaranteed the responses were from 259 individuals, as there was no way to filter out multiple responses from the same person.
That survey did address tobacco beyond cigarettes, however.
Cigarette smokes made up 58 percent; 40 percent chewed tobacco; and 45.6 percent said they smoke cigars.
A group of faculty, staff and students are working on the details of the tobacco-free plan, which will roll out in phases.
As of now, tobacco use is permitted in areas where it is allowed. Eventually, use will be restricted further before it is cut out completely, the statement said.
Christa VanCour, senior public health educator for the Clinton County Health Department’s Adirondack Tobacco Free Network, said the tobacco ban is especially significant, as Franklin County has highest percentage of adults who smoke in New York state.
“Paul Smith’s College is taking an important step in protecting the health of their campus community,” she said. “They should be applauded for their hard work and efforts, as they strive to join dozens of colleges across New York state to become a tobacco-free campus.”
— News Editor Suzanne Moore contributed to this report.