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UVM striving to become a tobacco-free campus - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

UVM striving to become a tobacco-free campus

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

The University of Vermont is on a mission to implement a new health policy that will affect everyone on campus-- a ban on all tobacco products.

Walking around UVM's campus, cigarette butts line the walkways and now the university is on a mission to eliminate the environmental and health concerns caused by tobacco products with a tobacco-free initiative.

"College students are at a great risk of unhealthy behavior. So if we can keep students at this age from smoking, they likely will not become adult long-term smokers," said Rebecca Ryan from the Vermont American Lung Association.

UVM's president has called on students and staff to head the tobacco-free UVM steering committee. The school plans to be completely tobacco-free by Jan. 1 of next year. The decision comes after a survey conducted by students in 2012, which found that 27 percent of UVM students are smokers.

"We found that here at UVM, more than a quarter of the students who did smoke cigarettes picked up the habit while they were here. Nationwide that statistic is much higher," said Dr. Jan Carney, the associate dean of public health.

Seventy percent of students surveyed agree that eliminating all tobacco products from campus is the right decision.

"It's not good for the environment and it's not good for the kids who are breathing in the air," said Bernard Yeboah, a freshmen at UVM.

"In a way it's just kind of a personal choice, just depends on the students. So I guess I kind of just have mixed feelings. It would also kind of promote a healthier campus," said Abby Greenfield, a freshmen at UVM.

"The health benefits are really compelling, this is a health issue and we're concerned about the health of our faculty, students and staff, and also the presence of all these cigarette butts is really negatively affecting the environment," said Carney.

Nationwide, nearly 25 percent of all college students between the ages of 18 and 25 are smokers. The VALA says the battle against tobacco begins in high school.

"There is increased peer pressures during the college years, so if we can keep kids from smoking before the college years they will likely not become adult smokers," said Ryan.

UVM does acknowledge that quitting isn't easy and plans to provide programs for those who seek help.

"We're working closely with the Vermont Department of Health and 802 Quits. We have excellent resources in our state. Those will be available both through the statewide resources as well as locally right here on campus," said Carney.

More than 800 campuses across the nation are currently tobacco-free. UVM would be the second school in the state to enforce the new health policy. While school officials say they will continue to have the conversation with the community, the mission won't change to create a healthier learning environment.

The only other school in Vermont that's completely tobacco-free is Springfield College in Saint Johnsbury.

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