More than 30 percent of universities nationwide have smoke-free residence halls. Starting in fall 2004, Rochester Institute of Technology will join their ranks—making all RIT living areas non-smoking.
A 2003 Bader grant survey at RIT found that 87 percent of incoming freshmen identified themselves as non-smokers and 5 percent as ex-smokers. Thirteen percent said they were occasional smokers compared with 17 percent of upperclassmen that are smokers (from a 2002 survey).
“Studies show that occasional and ex-smokers are at the greatest risk for starting to smoke again in campus environments that allow smoking in dorms and promote the sale of tobacco on campus,” says Mary-Beth Cooper, vice president for student affairs. “It’s harder to help people to stop smoking than it is stop them from starting in the first place.”
The policy change extends from traditional residence halls to RIT’s apartments and Greek housing. Student housing at the RIT Inn and Conference Center is already non-smoking. All academic buildings are also smoke-free due to recent New York State law.
Cooper also cited health hazards from second-hand smoke and fire safety issues as reasons backing the policy change. Smoking-related fires are the third leading cause of college dorm fires.
“What we’re trying to convey is a message of care and safety—that’s why we’re putting this policy in place,” she added.
During this transition, RIT will work with the community on how to best implement smoke-free campus living. An accommodations committee is being formed to identify how RIT can make the policy work in the best interest of both smokers and non-smokers, Cooper says. The Student Health Center will continue to offer smoking cessation and education programs.
“We’re not telling people they can’t smoke,” says Cooper. “We want to make this university a better and safer place for students that live on campus. Ultimately, this is for the benefit and safety of both smokers and non-smokers alike.”
Founded in 1829, RIT is internationally recognized as a leader in computing, engineering, imaging, technology, fine and applied arts, and education for the deaf. RIT enrolls more than 15,500 students in 340 undergraduate and graduate programs. For the past decade, U.S. News & World Report has ranked RIT as one of the nation’s leading comprehensive universities.