Permitting tobacco use on campus ignores severe health risks

Tobacco use is a front-runner in the most common cause of death in the United States, bringing about one out of every five deaths in the U.S. Smoking cigarettes accounts for more American deaths than alcohol, car accidents, HIV, guns and illegal drugs combined, according to the American Cancer Society.

With this alarming research readily available to the public, it is hard to imagine why anyone would want to smoke a cigarette.

The ACS reports that of the roughly 20 million college and university students in the U.S., “more than 1 million are projected to die prematurely from cigarette smoking.” 

Ninety percent of smokers start smoking by age 18, and 99 percent are addicted by age 26, according to the ACS. Therefore, younger individuals and college students are even more of a target for tobacco addiction.

Currently, Geneseo is not a tobacco-free campus and its students are highly at-risk due to this tobacco epidemic. With 5,500 students enrolled in the institution, research indicates that 275 of Geneseo’s students currently enrolled will die prematurely from smoking cigarettes.

This alarming statistic is not only restricted to smokers. The ACS explains that exposure to secondhand smoke is responsible for an estimated 41,000 deaths each year among adults in the U.S.

Avoiding second-hand smoke on our campus is almost impossible. While our designated smoking areas are located the legal 20 feet from our buildings, inhaling second-hand smoke is inevitable while walking into Milne Library, for example.

While our campus community initiates the substance and sex education conversation, they take the back seat on the tobacco epidemic. It is the responsibility of our campus community to immerse students and faculty in tobacco education and prevention.

Geneseo’s Relay For Life is the largest national collegiate event per capita and aims to educate individuals about cancer awareness and prevention. Over half of the student body helps to raise money for the mission of the ACS to save lives and cure cancer. 

It seems counterproductive, however, that Geneseo still isn’t a tobacco-free campus, allowing one of the main causes of cancer to affect its students. 

Having a tobacco-free campus would undoubtedly be a challenge for students who choose to smoke tobacco. These students would have to leave the campus to use tobacco products. While this may be an inconvenience, it does not outweigh the long-term effects of second-hand smoke. This inconvenience also may drive individuals who do smoke to reconsider this practice.

With SUNY’s initiative to make a “Tobacco-Free SUNY”—which is also backed by the SUNY Chancellor and the Board of Trustees—it is perplexing that our highly dedicated faculty and staff are not initiating the conversation to create a safer environment for all students. 

Currently out of the 64 SUNY campuses, 23 are officially tobacco-free. Some include SUNY Oswego, Buffalo State, SUNY Cortland, Stony Brook University and University at Buffalo. It is disappointing and frankly embarrassing that Geneseo isn’t among these colleges.

Anyone against the initiative to create a safer and tobacco free campus should reconsider the long-term effects of smoking tobacco, as well as the effects of second-hand smoke. 

Geneseo is not doing enough to become a tobacco free campus and should take the initiative to put health and safety first.