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Southeast to join movement in addressing tobacco use

Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College has announced its plan to join a national movement to address smoking and tobacco use at community college campuses throughout the United States. Through a grant from Legacy, the national public health organization responsible for the national truth smoking prevention campaign, Southeast will encourage students, faculty and school administration to adopt a 100 percent smoke-free or tobacco-free policy.

We are truly excited to start the process to make our college a safe, healthy and productive environment, said Dr. Lynn Moore, SKCTC president. The health benefits of reducing secondhand smoke exposure are invaluable and could also help students prepare for the workforce where smoke-free policies are already the norm.

Southeast was one of 38 community colleges around the country that are receiving funds, technical support and training from Legacy.The project will be led by the colleges tobacco free campus task force.

Over the next year, SKCTC will engage the campus community to address tobacco use. A taskforce will be formed to oversee the project, assess tobacco use behavior and attitudes, conduct prevention and educational activities and identify a treatment plan for current smokers.

Southeasts efforts are part of a growing trend to clean the air on campuses. Currently, more than 1,500 higher education institutions in the United States have gone smoke- or tobacco-free, including 330 community colleges. Through its first round of grants, the Legacy Community College Initiative hopes to reach more than half a million community college students and nearly 40,000 faculty/staff across 18 states.

With 99 percent of smokers starting before age 27, college campuses are critical platforms for preventing young adults from starting tobacco use, aiding those current tobacco users in quitting and reducing exposure to secondhand smoke for all, said Robin Koval, CEO and President of Legacy. We are looking forward to supporting Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical Colleges efforts to make smoking and tobacco use a thing of the past, she added.

Today, 42 million Americans still smoke and tobacco use remains the number-one cause of preventable death in this country. Research also shows that there are dire health consequences for non-smokers too. Secondhand smoke exposure causes cancer and cardiovascular disease among other secondhand smoke diseases, responsible for more than 41,000 deaths in the U.S.

Community colleges in the U.S. serve almost half -45 percent- of the undergraduate student population. With an enrollment of nearly 13 million, community colleges serve as an entryway to higher education for many students of color, low-income and first generation college degree earners.

The grant from Legacy has set us up for success and Im positive we can achieve our goals, said Dr. Moore. We are going to hit the ground running with our plan, she said.