There is a growing trend across the nation’s colleges and universities – a movement that promotes student health. Throughout the country, college and university campuses are adopting smoke-free or tobacco-free policies. According to the American Lung Association, there are presently 270 colleges and universities that have enacted policies completely prohibiting the use of all tobacco products on campus.
The American Non-smokers’ Rights Foundation lists 648 colleges or universities nationwide that currently have 100 percent smoke-free campuses. Philadelphia colleges are more than a step behind this trend. As one of the most prominent universities in Philadelphia, Temple is presented with a unique opportunity to be a leader in supporting student health.
The facts about the dangerous health effects of tobacco use and secondhand smoke are well known. For the average college student, smoking cigarettes should immediately be associated with horrible things like cancer, heart disease, yellow teeth, and erectile dysfunction. The Centers for Disease Control lists tobacco use as the No. 1 preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. The seriousness of secondhand smoke is also well known. Aside from its general unpleasantness for the non-smoking bystander, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services states that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke, and any exposure may have harmful health effects. As college students, we are inundated with information about the deadly consequences of tobacco use, yet tobacco use remains a social norm.
There is a large body of evidence that shows the Tobacco Industry targeting the college age group. Big Tobacco understands that 18 to 24 years olds who choose to smoke are not just smoking, but are becoming smokers. This creates an invested interest in college-aged people to keep business booming. There is a significant divide between perceived and actual tobacco use among college students. According to the American Lung Association, 64 percent of college students do not use tobacco, however, the perception of the average college student is that more than 80 percent of their college peers do use tobacco. This division illustrates the need for policy change that will support shifting this social norm.
Protecting those on campus from secondhand smoke should be a priority of all college campuses. However, a college that chooses to enact a tobacco-free policy also serves to protect members of this age group from being exploited by the tobacco industry. More importantly, a tobacco-free campus has the potential to halt the cementing of habitual tobacco use among college students. Overall, a tobacco-free policy on the college campus is a powerful contribution to student health and to the health of the nation. For Temple, it is time to put knowledge into action in a way that has not yet been achieved by any other Philadelphia university.
Advancing the effort to create a more healthy campus environment, the Student Coalition for the Prevention of Tobacco at Temple is working to raise awareness about the health dangers of tobacco use on campus. Gaining a student voice in this matter is vital for this movement to progress. For more information about SCPT you may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Justine E. Pileggi
Student Coalition for the
Prevention of Tobacco