Adrian Boteanu / Sun Staff Photographer

Ulysses Smith talking at the Employee Assembly Meeting.

September 22, 2016

Employee Assembly Takes Up Talk of Making Cornell Campus ‘Tobacco-Free’

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The Employee Assembly discussed the possibility of making Cornell a tobacco-free campus at its meeting Wednesday.

Cornell policy currently only prohibits smoking in indoor facilities, enclosed bus stops, University-owned or controlled vehicles and within 25 feet of any building entry.

Implementing a tobacco-free policy on campus requires a “well constructed” plan that provides an “opportunity to expand the conversation on addiction and the community culture of wellness,” according to Ted Schiele, coordinator for Tobacco Free Tompkins — an organization that promotes tobacco-free workplaces in Tompkins County.

“You have to give people who do smoke or use tobacco the time and chance to figure out — how am I going to deal with this now? How am I going to get through the day?” Schiele said.

He added that it is necessary to promote a level of awareness that “clearly distinguishes the substance from the person.”

E.A. members also discussed alternatives to a tobacco-free policy, which included creating designated smoking areas on campus. However, Shiele expressed concern with this idea, saying that designated smoking areas could send “mixed messages” about smoking and tobacco use, adding that they would be difficult for the University community to enforce.

“The absolute most simple policy would be that there is no smoking or tobacco use anywhere on Cornell property,” he said. “Because then everybody is clear on the boundaries. For simplicity sake, and for compliance sake, that is the gold standard.”

Schiele added that a tobacco-free policy is largely “peer enforced,” and people on campus would have a responsibility to “establish the norm” and “be in compliance” in order to work towards a new campus culture.

Sharon Dittman, director of community relations for Gannett Health Services, said there are many resources available to help guide a conversation about a tobacco-tree policy.

“There are dozens and dozens and dozens of campuses across the country that have already done this,” she said. “I’m sure they’ve had to turn these questions over. We’re going to find a lot of resources out there that will help us think through the options.”

This discussion of tobacco policy comes a day after the University Assembly discussed establishing a team to investigate a University tobacco policy change.