Jackson State University is joining forces with Truth Initiative® –the national nonprofit dedicated to achieving a culture where young people reject smoking, vaping and nicotine–to adopt a 100% tobacco/vape-free campus policy. The college is one of 10 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) or Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs) to receive this Truth Initiative award as part of a national movement among students, faculty and administrators to address smoking, vaping and nicotine use at college campuses throughout the U.S. Since 2015, Truth Initiative’s Tobacco/Vape-Free College Program has awarded more than $2.5 million in funding to 205 community colleges, women’s colleges, college systems, and minority-serving institutions including 59 HBCUs and 8 PBIs. With 99% of smokers initiating tobacco use before their 26th birthday, college campuses are critical in helping young people learn the facts about e-cigarettes and tobacco so that they can live healthier lives.
Over the next 16 months, Jackson State University will form a campus task force to assess smoking, vaping and tobacco use behaviors and attitudes, identify a cessation support plan for current smokers and vapers and develop a smoke, vape and tobacco-free policy. Two student leaders will also spearhead educational efforts to engage and mobilize their fellow students, building a movement to become a smoke, vape and tobacco-free campus. Jackson State University joins hundreds of institutions that are working to protect a combined 1.9 million students and 161,000 employees in 40 states.
Support for 100% tobacco-free policies on college campuses has skyrocketed in recent years. The number of colleges and universities making this commitment increased five-fold from 446 campuses in 2010 to 2,511 campuses in 2020. Tobacco and vape-free policies are more important than ever amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with research from Stanford University showing that teens and young adults who have vaped may be up to 5x more likely to test positive for the virus than their non-vaping peers.
“The grant and support from Truth Initiative will empower our students, staff and faculty to design and implement a tobacco and vape-free initiative that makes our campus environment safer for all,” said Director, Henry Thompson. “Tobacco use is a serious public health issue, but it is also a social justice issue given the disproportionate tobacco-related health outcomes experienced by Black Americans. We’re excited to hit the ground running alongside our community and our partners at Truth Initiative, to develop a plan for a tobacco and vape-free campus, and show that minority-serving institutions are leading the charge in realizing a future where young people choose lives free from nicotine.”
The tobacco industry has a long and well-documented history of targeting the Black community. It’s no coincidence that nearly 9 in 10 Black smokers use menthol cigarettes, which are harder to quit than traditional combustible cigarettes. For decades, the tobacco industry aggressively and intentionally targeted the community with menthol cigarettes, including placing more advertising in predominantly Black neighborhoods and running ads in publications that are popular with Black audiences. Tobacco companies also have a history of appropriating Black culture in marketing campaigns and leveraging event sponsorship opportunities in majority Black spaces. These targeting tactics continue to this day; Truth Initiative researchers found that stores in predominantly Black neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. were up to 10 times more likely to display tobacco ads than retailers in areas with fewer Black residents.
These predatory actions have serious consequences. Black Americans have higher death rates from tobacco-related causes compared to other racial and ethnic groups–with more than 39,000 Black Americans dying from tobacco-related cancers each year. The health consequences are especially severe now as COVID-19–which is disproportionately affecting Black communities– can carry a greater risk of severe illness for tobacco users.
These facts further demonstrate why it is more important than ever for young people to quit to protect their health. And many young people are recognizing these dangers as they become more health conscious amid the pandemic. Truth Initiative survey data show that nearly half of 15- to 24-year-olds responded that the pandemic has prompted them to look for information about quitting (48%) or talk to someone about quitting (45%). To provide crucial support and resources, Truth Initiative launched This is Quitting, a first-of-its-kind, free and anonymous text message quit vaping program to help young people quit vaping. The program has engaged more than 250,000 young people on their quit journey since launching in 2019.
“We are grateful for our dedicated college partners across the country who are working to make campus environments healthier places to live, work and learn,” said Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative. “We are proud to continue to build relationships and provide grants to minority-serving institutions, offering the support and the tools to help them fight back against the decades of targeted marketing from Big Tobacco. Giving colleges the tools and resources to create tobacco/vape-free policies is will help us realize a future where young people reject smoking, vaping and nicotine use.”
About Jackson State University Metro Jackson Community Prevention Coalition:
METRO JACKSON COMMUNITY PREVENTION COALITION
Metro Jackson Community Prevention Coalition’s (MJCPC) was formed in 1995 under the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) Community Prevention initiative. The Coalition is an expansion of an earlier CSAP five-year Community Partnership initiative “Jackson Takes A Stand Community Partnership.” Currently, MJCPC is funded by the Mississippi Department of Mental Health and the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety. MJCPC is under the Office of Community Engagement at JSU.
The Coalition has demonstrated success in providing age-appropriate, culturally relevant substance abuse prevention programs for adults and youth, In addition, the Coalition has been able to effectively work with all sectors of the community in an effort to mobilize them around adult and youth substance abuse issues.
Through our staff, partnerships and network of volunteers, MJCPC provides community organization, training and presentations on substance abuse prevention, life-skills training to schools, churches, neighborhood associations, businesses and civic and social organizations; and referral services which link residents with needed services.
About Truth Initiative:
About Truth Initiative® Truth Initiative is a national public health organization that is inspiring lives free from smoking, vaping and nicotine and building a culture where all young people reject tobacco. In 2020, we celebrated 20 years of saving lives and preventing millions of youth from smoking. Our impact has helped drive the teen smoking rate down from 23% in 2000 to 4.2% in 2020. The truth about tobacco and the tobacco industry are at the heart of our proven-effective and nationally recognized truth® public education campaign. truth has also recently taken on the youth epidemics of vaping and opioids. Our rigorous scientific research and policy studies, community and youth engagement programs supporting populations at high risk of using tobacco and innovation in tobacco dependence treatment, are also helping to end one of the most critical public health battles of our time. Based in Washington D.C., our organization, formerly known as the American Legacy Foundation, was established and funded through the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry. To learn more, visit truthinitiative.org.
About Tobacco-Free Policies:
A 100 percent tobacco-free policy prohibits the use of any tobacco product, such as cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, small cigars, pipes, hookah, smokeless tobacco (otherwise known as dip, chew, snuff, spit and snus) and other smokeless products. A comprehensive tobacco-free policy could also address tobacco sales, marketing, sponsorship and investments at colleges. For more information on model campus policies, visit the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.