Letter: Tobacco-free policy now in effect at LSU

On Aug. 1, LSU joined 42 other state campuses and more than 1,200 national campuses that have tobacco-free or smoke-free policies. In addition, all other SEC campuses have either tobacco-free or smoke-free policies. To date, not a single college campus has rescinded its tobacco policy once established.

LSU’s policy prohibits the use of all tobacco products on campus property, including vaping products and e-cigarettes. FDA-approved smoking cessation products are allowed. The policy applies to all members of the campus community and all visitors to campus.

While these campus policies are supported by state law (Act 211) and the governor’s Well Ahead program, many groups have come together to support tobacco policies, including The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living (TFL) that supports Fresh Campus student organizations on several state campuses through grants and programming. On the national level, the Surgeon General and the Department of Health and Human Services have established the Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative that supports campus policy formation.

A campuswide committee was established at LSU last fall to formulate the campus policy and gain the community support necessary to get the policy approved and enacted. LSU administrators have supported establishing a policy that will create a healthier community environment, will save at least $36,000 a year in tobacco butt cleanup and will help lower the smoking rates among undergraduates, which reached nearly 30 percent last year. Smoking cessation support will be available for students, faculty and staff.

The cost of smoking in Louisiana is staggering. At least 6,200 adults die each year from their own smoking. About 98,000 kids now under 18 alive in Louisiana will ultimately die prematurely from smoking. The annual state health care cost directly caused by smoking is $1.89 billion. State campus tobacco policies can reverse these trends.

Coincidentally, 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. Surgeon General report that outlined the dangers of smoking. The most recent Surgeon General’s Report points out that if young people can remain tobacco-free until age 26, more than 90 percent will never smoke.

Louisiana has many resources to support smoking cessation. TFL and Tobacco Control support the 1 (800) QUITNOW phone counseling service. The Smoking Cessation Program benefits all Louisianans who started smoking cigarettes before Sept. 1, 1988. Mary Bird Perkins and other medical facilities in Baton Rouge offer cessation classes. Insurance companies are increasingly paying for smoking cessation treatment.

All of us, smokers and nonsmokers, must be involved in enforcing tobacco policies on state campuses. All of us have a stake in creating a tobacco-free generation. Thank you for your support — and welcome to our tobacco-free campus!

Judith Sylvester

LSU mass communication associate professor, LSU Fresh Campus/SmokingWords and Tobacco-Free Living grantee

Baton Rouge