Contrary to the announcement made last semester, Stony Brook University will not be tobacco-free in 2014, following the New York State Legislature’s failure to pass a State University of New York-wide tobacco ban during the 2013 legislative session.
The policy would have prohibited the use of all tobacco products—e-cigarettes, hookahs, pipes and chewing tobacco—both indoors and outdoors on all Stony Brook property, including parking lots, the Manhattan and Southampton campuses and property leased by the university.
The impetus for the policy came from a resolution drafted by the Chancellor’s Task Force for a Tobacco-Free SUNY and adopted by the SUNY Board of Trustees in June of last year, which called for legislation to ban tobacco use on all SUNY property by Jan. 1, 2014.
In response, SUNY campuses prepared to comply with the Jan. 1 target date by releasing tobacco-free policies and guidelines for implementation.
However, the legislation introduced in the State Senate and Assembly did not come to a vote before the end of the 2013 legislative session in June, according to the State Assembly website. This caused the bills to die.
Though some SUNY campuses, including the University at Buffalo and SUNY College at Cortland, have already implemented tobacco-free policies without the passage of legislation, Stony Brook has opted not to go forward with the policy without the passage of a SUNY-wide tobacco ban legislation.
“Concerns were raised that [a tobacco free policy] should be collectively bargained in the absence of legislative directive,” Media Relations Officer Lauren Sheprow said. “Implementing a policy will follow legislation.”
Stony Brook’s current smoking policy, approved in 2009, bans smoking in all indoor locations, as well as 25 feet from all buildings.
Senior philosophy major Johnathan Bostrom, a smoker, said he supported the university’s decision to wait for the passage of a law.
“If it goes through the legislative process, there are obviously enough people who want it to make it happen,” Bostrom said. “More time is never a bad thing.”
And senior health science major Michelle Smith, a member of the Student Health Advisory Committee, agrees, saying she thinks “legislation would make things more concrete and organized.”
The university first announced the policy on April 20 online, featuring a message from President Samuel Stanley, a frequently asked questions page and information about tobacco cessation programs.
It has not been updated to reflect the required legislation did not pass and a newsletter distributed to incoming freshman this semester still advertised the January 2014 tobacco-free date.
There has been no indication yet whether the SUNY system will push for the re-introduction of legislation in the 2014 session of the State Legislature, but if such a measure passes, the SUNY system will become the largest public university in the country to implement a 100 percent tobacco-free policy.
Still, some students think do not think a tobacco-free policy matters.
“I don’t think tobacco is a big problem,” Muhtasim Chowdhury, a 20-year-old undeclared student, said. “People will find other places to smoke.