Cornell University Students To Vote On Tobacco-Free Campus Referendum

By Victoria Kim 01/30/18

The proposal was well-received by President Martha E. Pollack, who said she would “fully support” the campaign to reduce smoking.

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A proposal to ban the use of tobacco products at Cornell University will be up for a vote this spring, according to The Cornell Daily Sun. The referendum would “launch a two-year initiative to become tobacco-free” on the Ithaca, New York campus.

Cornell would hardly be the first college or university to impose a smoking or tobacco ban. Estimates of the number of smoke/tobacco-free campuses in the United States range from as low as 500 to over a thousand. These estimates likely vary due to discreet differences in policies; for example, schools that prohibit cigarette smoking but do not have a rule about alternative smoking devices, such as e-cigarettes, are not always counted as a smoke/tobacco free institution. 

This explains the American Lung Association's relatively low estimate of 477 colleges and universities that are counted as 100% tobacco-free. However, according to a 2015 report by the New York State Colleges Tobacco-Free Initiative, 1,577 campuses have adopted some form of smoke/tobacco-free policy.

Cornell students can submit comments about the proposal prior to the referendum vote, which a Student Assembly member said would be held in time for spring elections. The referendum came about through the University Assembly, after meetings between the Campus Welfare Committee, Cornell Health, Cornell Wellness, Environmental Health and Safety, and others.

The proposal was well-received by President Martha E. Pollack, who said she would “fully support” the campaign to reduce smoking, but she also hesitated to impose what may be “a significant personal restriction” to members of the Cornell community who choose to smoke.

“In addition to providing opportunities for dialogue on the use of tobacco on campus, a referendum—along with the attendant comment period and public forum—would create an opportunity for a public education campaign on campus to enhance understanding about the negative health effects of tobacco use, an effort I would fully support,” said Pollack in a statement.

Certain states have gone much further, enacting laws that prohibit smoking on all public campuses. Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, and Oklahoma have banned smoking on public campuses. Other schools, like the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, established their own no-smoking policies. The use of all tobacco products are banned in all areas of the UPENN campus, including hookahs.

Given the decreasing market for traditional cigarettes, Philip Morris—the tobacco giant behind Marlboro, Virginia Slims, and Parliaments—is trying to break into a new market for “reduced risk” tobacco products.  

The company submitted a new product called the iQOS to the Food and Drug Administration for approval, claiming that it has fewer health risks because it vaporizes tobacco instead of burning it. This differs from e-cigarettes, which vaporize “e-liquid” containing nicotine, not actual tobacco.

However, after reviewing the product, a federal advisory committee has advised the FDA to reject the product and its claims that replacing cigarettes with the iQOS “can reduce the risks of tobacco-related diseases.” 

The New York Times reports that the FDA is expected to make its final decision in the coming months.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr