CVS Health Foundation, partners take aim at campus smoking

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — In its latest public health effort to curb smoking, the CVS Health Foundation is partnering with the American Cancer Society and Truth Initiative to provide grants to help U.S. colleges and universities push for smoke- and tobacco-free campus policies. The grants are part of the organizations’ efforts to expand the number of campuses that prohibit smoking and tobacco use.

The availability of grants coincides with the organizations awarding $1.2 million in grants to 126 schools working toward tobacco-free campuses, including Stanford University, 34 historically black colleges and universities and 49 community colleges. The grants are part of CVS Health’s five-year, $50 million Be The First initiative, which supports education, tobacco control and healthy behavior programming all aimed at creating the first tobacco-free generation.

"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," CVS Health Foundation president Eileen Howard Boone said. "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."

According to a recent CVS Health survey, 73% of Americans and 8-in-10 current U.S. college students indicated their support for policies looking to curb smoking and tobacco uses on campuses. Additionally, 57% of U.S. college students said that a tobacco-free campus was important to them when considering applying to or attending a college.

"While we have made great progress driving down the smoking rate to 6 percent among youth, the prevalence of smoking by young adults is 14.2 percent and those who attend college have a higher risk of initiating and experimenting with smoking," Robin Koval, CEO and President of Truth Initiative, said "With 99 percent 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 2016, the CVS Health Foundation has awarded more than $3 million in grants to 146 colleges and universities.

"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," American Cancer Society CEO Gary Reedy said. "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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