University of New England establishes tobacco-free campus

November 19, 2013

The University of New England announces that effective July 1, 2014, the university will transition to a 100% tobacco-free and smoke-free campus.

“Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in this country. As an innovative health sciences university grounded in the liberal arts, we want to promote a campus culture of wellness and environmental responsibility.  We strive to provide a safe and healthy environment for our students, faculty and staff to learn and work, and adopting a tobacco-free policy is an example of this commitment,” said UNE President Danielle N. Ripich, Ph.D.

UNE's new policy makes both university campuses in Biddeford and Portland free from the use of any tobacco products or non-FDA-approved nicotine products such as electronic cigarettes, in all buildings, administrative facilities, residence halls and on-campus grounds, including athletic fields and cars parked on campus.

Becoming a 100% tobacco-free campus has been a student-led process. As documented in the U.S. Surgeon General reports released in 2006 and 2010, secondhand smoke is a Class A carcinogen, with no safe level of exposure.  In addition to the strong evidence-based support for this policy, a key to UNE’s decision was strong support from the undergraduate and graduate student governments (USG) on both campuses, including a 2013 student poll.

"Having a tobacco free campus policy that was approved by students from all colleges speaks to the proactive nature and leadership potential of our student body. It's great to see the health-oriented mindset from UNE's students, as many of us will quickly be moving on to be leaders in not only health care, but in business and communities as well,” said Gavin Kuns, past UNE USG president and student trustee, and first-year UNE College of Osteopathic Medicine student.

Heather McIlroy, class of 2014, USG vice-president, resident assistant, and past USG president, added, "I am proud to say the University of New England is a student-centered university and this truly showed throughout this whole process. The university came together to work toward a tobacco-free campus, gaining support of students from all colleges. The student leaders from each college jointly voiced their endorsement of going tobacco-free to President Ripich, and here we are today about to put the policy in effect. It just goes to show that UNE really is a student-centered university."

Currently, areas within 50 feet of building entrances at UNE are smoke-free. Outreach, information and support services will continue to be implemented before the new campuswide policy starts July 1, 2014.  UNE will promote tobacco cessation resources and train employees to assist tobacco users who want to quit.

The Tobacco Free College Campus Initiative notes at least 1,177 smoke-free campuses in the United States, of which 792 are tobacco-free as of July 2013.  In Maine, at least seven campuses have 100% tobacco-free policies.