Tobacco-Free SUNY

Tobacco-Free SUNY

The Chancellor and the Board of Trustees remain committed to a Tobacco Free SUNY. We will continue to work with the sponsors of our legislation to seek its successful passage. In the meantime, we ask that campuses persist in designing and implementing strategies to drive their campuses toward the tobacco-free goal. We sponsor regional events for the purposes of critical thinking and information sharing to assist in this process. We understand that to achieve this, a campus culture change is necessary and that no campus can effectively achieve a tobacco-free campus without addressing both social and collective bargaining issues and that time, collaboration and full dialogue are critical to the process.

Reference Materials

Tobacco-Free FAQs

Is there a difference between tobaccofree and smokefree?
‘Tobacco-Free’ is a comprehensive term that means that no form of tobacco is allowed.
‘Smoke-Free’ means that smoke-less tobacco (chew, dipp, snuff, etc.) is permitted.

Why does SUNY want to go tobaccofree?
The SUNY Strategic Plan includes goals for SUNY and a Healthier New York: The health of New Yorkers is essential to the state's economic success and few organizations, public or private, can address New York's health care challenges as powerfully as SUNY. SUNY is compelled to contribute to a healthier generation and given the statistics, it is important to pass tobacco-free policies to mitigate the exposure to tobacco in the college environment. According to the American Cancer Society, in NYS, the rate of smoking in the 18- 24 age group (21.6%) is 58% higher than that of high school students (12.5%).

The rationale for the initiative is included in the resolution passed by the Board of Trustees in June 2012:

Chancellor's Message:
“SUNY and the Board of Trustees remain committed to a Tobacco-Free SUNY. We will continue to work with the sponsors of our legislation to seek its successful passage. In the meantime, we ask that campuses persist in designing and implementing strategies to drive their campuses toward the tobacco-free goal.”

2014-15 legislative intent statement:
Tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of death in the United States and accounts for more annual deaths than suicide, murder, HIV/AIDS, alcohol use, illegal drug use and motor vehicle injuries combined. Using tobacco is a personal choice, a tobacco-free policy does not take away an individual's right to choose to use tobacco. It does limit, however, where a person may use tobacco.  SUNY respects an individual's right to use tobacco off campus, in places where it is legal to do so.

SUNY 2014-15 Memorandum of Support:
The Chancellor’s Task Force for a Tobacco-Free SUNY, comprised of students, faculty, staff, and campus administration, concluded that SUNY must move in a direction to create a 100% tobacco-free campus environment, which would include all campus buildings, parking ramps, and facilities and off-campus facilities owned or operated by SUNY. In June 2012, The SUNY Board of Trustees subsequently endorsed these efforts and approved a resolution to support legislation to accomplish this goal.

With the establishment of tobacco-free campus environments, SUNY would join more than 800 higher education institutions in the U.S. that have become completely tobacco-free as of January 2014. SUNY is approaching the process through a cultural change over time within the campus community that allows for the personal, health, and environmental changes to evolve to tobacco-free campus environments. This includes educating the campus community about all aspects of tobacco use, and the importance of treating the tobacco user, non user, and the environment with profound respect. In doing so, each SUNY institution will become tobacco-free in a way that resonates with their unique mission.

Tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of death in the U.S., and the number one source of litter on the planet. In making its campuses tobacco-free, and achieving the culture change necessary to make this policy work, SUNY will mitigate the devastating health impact of tobacco use on individuals and the campus environments.  

A.7277-B/S.4853-B will enable SUNY to fully implement the objectives of the Chancellor’s Task Force and the Board of Trustees resolution. Campuses will develop policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the intent of the legislation which compliments a key element of the Power of SUNY report addressing A Healthier New York.

What steps has SUNY taken?

What is the legislative history related to Tobacco-Free SUNY legislation?



SUNY will continue to work to support this legislation in the 2015-16 budget cycle.

Are community colleges included in the Board of Trustees resolution and/or legislation?
Community colleges in the SUNY system are not included in the resolution or legislation given the governance of community colleges within their respective counties within NYS. The chancellor encourages community colleges to continue their progress in this area and to join SUNY’s ongoing efforts.

What is the current status of collective bargaining/union issues associated with this effort?
The Public Employment Relations Board has determined that smoking is a mandatory subject of negotiations for public sector employees. In brief, that means that a public employer cannot unilaterally impose a ban on smoking that pertains to its unionized employees. Each State-operated SUNY campus is a separate payroll agency with its president serving as the sole appointing authority, thereby making each such campus a separate employer. Campuses may initiate local negotiations with each of the bargaining unit chapters through a delegation of negotiating authority from the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations, which can be obtained by request to the SUNY System Administration Office of Employee Relations. Although many efforts have been made over the years, only two of the State-operated campuses have been successful in reaching agreement with all of the local bargaining units on this topic. Those campuses are Cortland and Upstate Medical University. SUNY’s legislative initiative is, therefore in some measure, intended to overcome the slow progress of local negotiations by creating an overarching statutory mandate. SUNY encourages every campus to engage all stakeholders, including labor, in the establishment of a campus tobacco-free policy in order to ensure successful implementation.

What colleges are tobacco-free?
Currently, 73% of SUNY’s state-operated institutions are in some stage of tobacco-free policy implementation with 10% of SUNY’s state operated institutions and 30% of SUNY’s community colleges having implemented tobacco-free policies.

Studies support a growing trend towards tobacco-free campuses. For more information by state, please visit:

What about e-cigarettes? Are they included?
The university would seek to have e-cigarettes included as there is no FDA approval to use as a cessation device, e-cigarettes contain tobacco. In addition, as we focus on a tobacco-free environment any product that looks like a cigarette or is used to inhale, smoke, chew tobacco should be included in this campus ban.   

What data do we have about smoking?
The American Cancer Society cited statistics provided by the NYS Dept of Health: there is an increase in first time and regular tobacco use in college students, despite significant reduction in smoking rates in the last 10 years amongst that age group in NYS. Close to 22% of college-aged people in NYS are reported as smokers. This rate is more than double the number of smokers in high school.

For more information on trends, see: Tobacco Free College Campus Initiative -

In December 2013, the NYS Department of Health and New York State Health Foundation sponsored a Population Health Summit. Thomas Farley, NYC Commissioner of Health, gave a presentation that included a demonstration of the most cost effective interventions on improving public health were environmental interventions (passing laws to declare areas smoke/tobacco-free) as compared to clinical interventions or other interventions. NYC’s Take Care New York public health plan ( lists tobacco-free living as the first priority area out of 10 on the listing. Recently, NYC has raised the age to purchase cigarettes to 21 to further limit the use of cigarettes by adolescents.

What supports are available to those who wish to stop smoking?
On SUNY campuses, nicotine addiction is treated like other addictions. Students have access to health services, support groups, mentors, counselors, and nicotine patches/gum/lozenges. Campuses will also make use and refer students to community and on-line resources such as podcasts, text messaging programs, and other resources. Below are NYS resources often listed on campus websites:

Why does it matter ultimately to implement a tobacco-free policy at SUNY?
SUNY agrees with the National Center for Tobacco Policy that it is important to be responsible about what we are educating while students are within our campus environment. As SUNY moves toward this cultural shift and implementation, this policy will help SUNY to effect real change and educate students about the benefits of being part of a responsible community, which include: 


Academic Health and Hospital Affairs