The use of tobacco products will be banned on all Stony Brook campuses starting Jan. 1, 2016, according to the tobacco-free policy approved by the Office of the President in July.
This policy will prohibit the use of tobacco products in all indoor and outdoor locations as well as in university transportation vehicles. The sale and advertisement of tobacco products will also be prohibited.
Some of the tobacco products defined in the policy include but are not limited to: cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, hookah-smoked products, and oral and smokeless tobacco.
This tobacco-free initiative has been in the works since 2012 when the State University of New York Board of Trustees passed a resolution that called for the enactment of tobacco-free policies on SUNY campuses. Stony Brook was prepared to go forward with a tobacco-free policy in accordance with a proposed SUNY-wide tobacco ban.
However, the New York State Legislature failed to pass the bill during the 2013 legislative session. After that, Stanley and his then-Chief Deputy, Edward Summers, announced they planned to go forth with a tobacco-ban even without a legislative ban.
Stony Brook would not be the first SUNY campus to implement a tobacco-free policy campus-wide. Currently, 11 other SUNY campuses are tobacco-free, including SUNY Buffalo and SUNY Oswego.
When asked about their thoughts on Stony Brook becoming a smoke-free campus, students were divided by the issue. Several students said they thought the idea comes with good intentions but believe enforcement of the ban would be difficult.
“If people are addicted to nicotine, getting them to stop is going to be extremely difficult,” said Mitchell Swerdloff, a sophomore biochemistry major and a smoker.
But some non-smokers disagreed.
“I can understand why people would say it’s stepping on their freedom to choose to smoke but you’re also choosing to step on the freedoms of the people who choose not to smoke,” says Nicole Lado, a freshman women’s and gender studies major.
“The main priority is that you shouldn’t jeopardize other people’s health,” says Justin Cheung, a sophomore chemical engineering major.
Many students, smokers and nonsmokers alike, contend that having designated smoke-areas would be a good alternative solution.
Swerdloff suggests having designated smoking areas in lower traffic areas: “For example, if there are two routes to get someplace, have the lower traffic route include a designated smoke spot; that way, nonsmokers would have the option to walk the other way.”
However, the university has decided to not have designated areas for smokers on campus once the policy takes effect, Lauren Sheprow, the university’s spokeswoman, said in an email. Stony Brook came to this decision after observing other colleges and consulting an expert from the National Center for Tobacco Policy.
The administration believes that making a clean break from tobacco and smoking product use on campus would help to avoid ambiguity and confusion, Sheprow said.
On enforcement, Sheprow said that the policy is not intended to be punitive for smokers or to force them to stop smoking. Instead, the policy’s mission is meant to educate and promote the reduction of tobacco use of individuals on campus.
Sheprow noted that the university offers tobacco cessation program services for students who would like to quit tobacco use.
The Student Health Center has a Nicotine Replacement Therapy program that offers nicotine gum and patches to students at no cost. Additionally, the university’s employee wellness initiative, “Healthier U,” includes a free smoking cessation program that offers techniques to stop smoking as well as stress management and relaxation methods.
Swerdloff has been aware of the cessation programs but believes they are not widely publicized. That might change soon with the enactment of the new policy.
To help promote the policy, Stony Brook will be launching a tobacco-free website that will provide resources and information related to the tobacco-free campus initiative, Sheprow said. Additional promotional materials are in development.
Swerdloff contends that the policy will not change his mind: “I’ll quit smoking when I’m ready to quit smoking, not based off a policy that the university is enacting.”
Lado, however, is more optimistic about the policy. She said “it’ll put smokers in a tough position but it’ll give them the extra push to quit.”