This Tuesday, July 15, 2014 photo shows the tobacco in cigarettes in Philadelphia. A study ties a host of new diseases to smoking, and says an additional 60,000 to 120,000 deaths each year in the United States are probably due to tobacco use. The study by the American Cancer Society and several universities is published in the Thursday, Feb 12, 2015 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. It looks beyond lung cancer, heart disease and other conditions already tied to smoking and adds breast cancer, prostate cancer and even routine infections to the list. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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The Truth Initiative and the CVS Health Foundation are joining together to make campuses at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) 100 percent smoke- and tobacco-free.

The organizations plans to work with students and administrators at HBCUs and community colleges across the country to advocate for, adopt and implement this bold action they announced on Thursday, April 13.

“With 99 percent of smokers starting before age 27, college campuses are critical to preventing young adults from starting tobacco use, aiding current smokers in quitting and reducing exposure to secondhand smoke for all,” said Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative.

Despite lower youth and young adult smoking rates overall, smoking on college campuses remains a problem in the U.S.

Of the 102 federally recognized HBCUs in the country, less than half have smoke-free and/or tobacco-free campus policies according to the Truth Initiative.

Of the 1,108 community colleges in the U.S., only 360 have 100 percent smoke-free policies in place.

The “Truth x CVS Health Foundation” tobacco-free campus initiative follows the launch of the latest campaign by Truth, #STOPPROFILING, which emphasizes that tobacco use isn’t just a public health issue, it’s a social justice issue.

The group claims that where you live, who you love, your race, your mental health and financial status plays an important role in how hard tobacco companies come after those demographics. For decades, African-Americans, low-income neighborhoods, LGBTQ communities and those with mental illness have been disproportionally targeted with advertising and promotional efforts.

“Our partnership aims to counteract the decades of profiling of African-Americans and low income communities by Big Tobacco,” Koval said. “We are thrilled to be working with the CVS Health Foundation to make smoking and tobacco use a thing of the past on HBCU and community college campuses.”

Since the launch of their tobacco-free college program in 2015, Truth Initiative has awarded funding to 135 colleges. To date, 50 colleges have gone smoke- or tobacco-free, including 40 community colleges and 10 HBCUs.

CVS Health and the CVS Health Foundation’s goals for Be The First initiative include doubling the number of tobacco-free educational institutions in the United States.

This is part of their larger $50 million commitment to help deliver the nation’s first tobacco-free generation.

The CVS Health Foundation will also partner with American Cancer Society to help with their efforts on black college campuses.

“Today’s young people are a generation with an unyielding commitment to diversity, inclusivity and equality, and that includes making sure health benefits are equally distributed across ethnic and socioeconomic classes,” said David Casey, CVS Health’s chief diversity officer.

The Truth Initiative asserts that the tobacco industry has long profiled minority communities, particularly African-Americans, with intense advertising and promotional efforts.

In major cities such as D.C., there are up to 10 times more tobacco advertisements in African-American neighborhoods.

African-Americans also disproportionately experience health burdens of tobacco-related morbidity and mortality.

Each year, approximately 47,000 blacks die from a smoking-related disease.

Research has also shown a clear pattern of targeted marketing in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods. People living below the poverty level in the U.S. are nearly twice as likely to smoke, compared to those at or above the poverty level.

“We’re proud that the CVS Health Foundation is working with Truth Initiative to help HBCUs and community colleges adopt tobacco-free campus policies,” Casey said. “Helping more colleges and universities go tobacco-free is an important step in achieving our shared goal of helping to deliver the first tobacco-free generation.”

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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