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CVS Health steps up tobacco-free campus push

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WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health is ramping up its efforts to curb tobacco use among young Americans.

The CVS Health Foundation said Tuesday that it has teamed up with American Cancer Society and Truth Initiative to provide grants to help U.S. colleges and universities promote, adopt and implement 100% smoke- and tobacco-free campus policies.

Along with the new grants, $1.2 million in grants has been awarded to 126 schools working toward a tobacco-free campus policy, the largest number of schools to do so at any one time, CVS reported.

Spanning the country, the campuses include 43 major academic institutions, such as Stanford University and University of Pittsburgh; 34 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), including Howard University; and 49 community colleges. Grantees range from colleges in the early stages of building campus support for going tobacco-free to those that have adopted policies and need support to successfully implement them.

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The grants delivered via the Truth Initiative and American Cancer Society are part of “Be The First,” CVS Health’s five-year, $50 million campaign that supports education, tobacco control and healthy behavior programming — with an objective of helping to realize the nation’s first tobacco-free generation.

CVS noted that its efforts focused on college students address an urgent need. Of the approximately 20 million college and university students nationwide, more than 1 million have been projected to die prematurely from cigarette smoking.

“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,” Eileen Howard Boone, president of the CVS Health Foundation, said in a statement. “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.”

With support from the CVS Health Foundation, the American Cancer Society and Truth Initiative programs help students, faculty and staff enact strategies to meet the campuses’ unique needs and move the schools toward a full smoke- and tobacco-free environment. Each organization also provides technical assistance and other resources to schools, including education, communications, support for smoking cessation and evaluation.

Public support for smoke- and tobacco-free campuses is strong, a new CVS Health survey of 2,880 U.S. adults finds. Released today, the results show that 73% of Americans and 78% of U.S. college students support for policies prohibiting smoking and other tobacco use on college campuses.

Meanwhile, 57% of U.S. college students said a tobacco-free campus is important when considering applying to or attending a college, according to the online poll, conducted by Morning Consult for CVS.

“While we have made great progress driving down the smoking rate to 6% among youth, the prevalence of smoking by young adults is 14.2%, and those who attend college have a higher risk of initiating and experimenting with smoking,” stated Robin Koval, chief executive officer and president of the Truth Initiative, the national public health organization that directs and funds the truth campaign. “With 99% of smokers starting before age 26, college campuses are critical in preventing young adults from starting tobacco use, aiding current smokers in quitting and reducing exposure to secondhand smoke for all. We are thrilled to be working with the CVS Health Foundation to provide grants to minority-serving institutions, HBCUs,and community colleges to give them the tools to go tobacco-free and be the generation that ends smoking.”

Since the launch of its tobacco-free college program last year, the CVS Health Foundation has awarded more than $3 million in grants to 146 U.S. colleges and universities to raise the number of 100% tobacco-free campuses. CVS reported that only 1,611 campuses are completely smoke- and tobacco-free, according to an analysis by Americans for Nonsmokers Rights analysis. The U.S. Department of Education pegs the the number of colleges and universities nationwide at about 4,700.

“Tobacco is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States. Cigarette smoking is responsible for approximately 30% of all cancer deaths, killing up to half of its users,” commented Gary Reedy, CEO 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.”


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