99% of smokers started before their 26th birthday. College can be a time that determines whether or not a young adult will become a lifelong smoker. Because of this we worked with representatives from our Vermont State Colleges System (VSCS) to support a learning environment for the 5 Vermont state colleges that encourages healthy behavior to support academic success and a healthy future for its graduates.
Three years ago, Dr. Harry Chen, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health, approached the state’s college presidents and asked them to lead an effort that would make their respective campuses tobacco or smoke free. On April 27, 2016 Dr. Chen was invited along with 2 other representatives of the Tobacco-free College Campus Initiative in Vermont to give a presentation to (VSCS) board members and college administration about the benefits of tobacco and smoke free campuses. The VSC Board was encouraged to join the movement of campuses and states across the US that have created smoke-free and tobacco-free campuses to:
- Create a healthier environment for students, faculty, staff and visitors
- Support tobacco users who are trying to quit and help those who have quit remain tobacco free
- Reduce the number of new tobacco users by promoting the social norm of a smoke- and tobacco-free environment
And good news! At their May 2016 meeting, the Board of Trustees for the Vermont State Colleges passed a resolution to move toward tobacco-free campuses for all state colleges by fall of 2018. All VT state colleges were tasked by the board to organize task forces on their campus that will create an implementation plan to propose at their next meeting this November to be ready for a tobacco free campus policy by fall of 2018.
“We are so excited by VSC’s committment to reduce the harm from tobacco use and secondhand smoke and provide a culture that supports people to remain tobacco-free. However, we know that for some, this policy change will be a challenge. I encourage campuses to use this planning year to train health staff on their campus to become certified Tobacco Treatment Specialists and to increase promotion of Vermont’s free cessation resource, 802QUITS,” says Mariah Sanderson, the Vermont Tobacco Free College Campus Initiative Coordinator.