University of Rhode Island to pursue a 100 percent tobacco-free campus

$20,000 Grant from American Cancer Society, CVS Health Foundation to support efforts to advocate for, adopt and implement policies

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862 |

KINGSTON, R.I. – September 19, 2017 – The University of Rhode Island today received a $20,000 grant from the American Cancer Society and CVS Health Foundation to advocate for, adopt and implement 100 percent smoke- and tobacco-free campus policies.

The grant is part of the American Cancer Society’s Tobacco-Free Generation Campus Initiative, funded by the CVS Health Foundation, to deliver the first tobacco-free generation by accelerating and expanding the number of campuses across the country that prohibit smoking and tobacco use.

The grant will help URI students, faculty and staff develop and execute strategies toward a 100 percent smoke- and tobacco-free environment. The American Cancer Society will also provide technical assistance and other resources, including education, communications, support to quit smoking and evaluation.

The URI Tobacco-Free Campus Committee, which has representation from all University sectors, is headed by Ellen Reynolds, director of URI Health Services, and Deborah A. Riebe, professor and associate dean of the College of Health Sciences. The committee has met once to begin developing strategies and a plan for the program. The Tobacco-Free initiative will lead to a campus prohibition of cigarettes, cigars and all smokeless tobacco products.

One of the committee’s first big steps will be to conduct a campus-wide survey to evaluate the readiness for change among students, faculty and staff.

“We will involve key stakeholders in the project, and develop a University-wide policy for a tobacco-free campus,” Reynolds said. “We will hold public forums to address the concerns of our community, and a major part of the strategic plan is to assist those interested in tobacco-cessation.”

In 2005, Rhode Island law banned smoking in workplaces, public spaces and restaurants. Smoking was banned in bars and taverns in 2006.

“We are excited to join more than 1,900 institutions that have taken this step to create a healthier and greener campus,” Reynolds said.

“We look forward to collaborating with our students, faculty and staff to develop a campus policy that reflects our shared values,” Riebe said.

“Going tobacco free is as much about the non-smoker as it is about the smoke,” Reynolds added.

The Tobacco-Free Generation Campus Initiative is designed to reduce the number of people who get sick and die from tobacco-related diseases by reducing tobacco use among college students. College is a time when youth are susceptible to starting or developing a tobacco addiction. The initiative’s goal is to reduce access to and opportunities to use tobacco by increasing the number of universities and colleges that are 100 percent smoke- and tobacco-free.

“Tobacco is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States. Cigarette smoking is responsible for approximately 30 percent of all cancer deaths, killing up to half of its users,” said Gary Reedy, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, “By partnering with the CVS Health Foundation to create tobacco-free campus environments, we can reduce youth tobacco exposure, prevent students from becoming addicted, and ultimately, reduce the number of people who get sick and die from cancer and other tobacco-related diseases.”

The initiative is part of CVS Health’s Be The First campaign, the company’s five-year, $50 million commitment to help deliver the nation’s first tobacco-free generation. As part of Be The First, CVS Health and the CVS Health Foundation have set actionable and measurable goals, including a doubling of the number of tobacco-free educational institutions in the United States. For more information, please visit Tobacco Free .

“We are at a critical moment in our nation’s efforts to end the epidemic of smoking and tobacco use, and expanding the number of tobacco-free college and university campuses is an important step in our efforts,” said Eileen Howard Boone, president of the CVS Health Foundation. “We’re confident our strategy will drive a significant decline in the number of new college-age smokers, and contribute to the progress being made where a tobacco-free generation in the U.S. seems possible.”

Recent data confirm public support for smoke- and tobacco-free policies: 57 percent of U.S. college students say a tobacco-free campus is important to them when considering applying to or attending a college, and 90 percent of Americans say college campuses should be tobacco free. The findings come from a public opinion poll conducted by Morning Consult for CVS Health in August 2017.

The U.S. Department of Education reports there are approximately 4,700 U.S. colleges and universities, many of which have more than one campus. Yet, only 1,611 campuses are 100-percent smoke- and tobacco-free, according to an Americans for Nonsmokers Rights analysis.