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SUNY trustees request system-wide campus smoking ban

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The SUNY board of trustees decided Tuesday that tobacco use on campus should be extinguished once and for all.

The board passed a resolution to support legislation for an outdoor tobacco ban by 2014 on all 64 of its campuses.

“By establishing a policy that will prohibit the use of tobacco among our 468,000 students and 88,000 employees on campuses across New York, we will have a positive impact on their health and that of our visitors,” board Chairman H. Carl McCall said in a release.

On SUNY Potsdam’s campus, a committee has discussed implementing an outdoor ban, said William G. Morris III, dean of students.

“The resolution gives us more of a direction and a timeline,” he said. “For us, the big issue is how do we do this in a way that reflects our understanding that for those who currently smoke and want to stop. It is a difficult process at best. How do we create a policy that understands that certain people who currently smoke want to continue to smoke?”

Mr. Morris said SUNY Potsdam would spend several months educating students, faculty and staff ahead of the ban and offer smoking cessation programs to those who want to quit.

SUNY Canton officials said they also were moving forward with plans to eliminate tobacco use from the campus.

The resolution stops short of imposing a ban because state collective bargaining rules prevent SUNY from establishing restrictions on tobacco use stricter than state law, said Russell C. Sciandra, state director of advocacy for the American Cancer Society.

“SUNY could adopt this policy for its students and visitors. It could not force its employees to comply without getting the unions to agree with it in collective bargaining,” he said. “It’s not like this is going to happen overnight. There is going to be a long process of planning and discussion.”

Mr. Sciandra said the state Legislature would have to pass a law to enact the policy.

In 2007, the board eliminated smoking indoors and in university-owned vehicles.

Mr. Sciandra said that smoking remains most popular with young people between ages 18 and 24 who can buy tobacco products legally but still may be susceptible to advertisements and marketing.

“This continues to be a vulnerable age. I think the university feels a college has a special responsibility to model and encourage healthy behaviors, and this a great way to do it,” he said.

If the measure is passed, SUNY would become the largest university in the United States to impose such a ban, Mr. Sciandra said.

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