The most recent data shows that the tobacco industry spent more than $1 million a day sponsoring events and giveaways that target college students. Tobacco companies heavily target young adults (ages 18 to 21) through a variety of marketing activities—such as music and sporting events, bar promotions, college marketing programs, college scholarships, and parties—because they know it is a critical time period for solidifying a tobacco addiction.
Clearly, this tactic works – many young adults start to smoke in college. Almost 40% of smokers either began smoking (11.0%) or became regular smokers (28.0%) after starting college. In 2010, 24.8% of college students categorized themselves as “current smokers.” Read more here>and here>.
The awful part about this is that tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death globally. In the U.S. alone, about 480,000 Americans are killed each year; this equates to more than 20% of all deaths.
Many Americans believe that the war on tobacco has been won, but the fact is, the number of smokers is climbing globally. Unless more is done, the tobacco death toll in the 21st century is expected to be 1 billion.
There are several things colleges and universities can do to help combat the tobacco epidemic. ASH encourages universities to divest their funds from any tobacco interests. This means that no university funds are used to invest in companies that make money from tobacco.
Divestment is not an idea unique to colleges and universities. Seven states (Maryland, New York, Florida, Massachusetts, Vermont, Minnesota, and California) have divested, as have many cities, towns, and counties. One country, Norway, even divested their entire government pension fund – a $2 billion investment. Read more about divestment at the state and local level in our Implementation Guide>.
Universities should NOT profit from tobacco addictions, diseases, and deaths. Aside from the public health implications stated above, the tobacco industry limits development, negatively impacts the environment, and utilizes child labor. The money students spend on their education should not be invested in projects that have such a clearly negative impact around the world.
ASH encourages schools that have not divested to consider divestment as a way to fight the tobacco epidemic.
ASH applauds the colleges and universities that are doing their part to protect the health of their students and the world by keeping their school “Free from Tobacco Money”!
See our list of certified “Free from Tobacco Money” colleges and universities here.