Resolution: UA R9: Tobacco-Free Campus Referendum

ActionAcknowledged by the President


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Dear Gabe,

Thank you for submitting UA Resolution 9, “Tobacco-Free Campus Referendum”. I appreciate the work of the University Assembly, and the Campus Welfare Committee in particular, to help enhance the health of our Cornell community.

Tobacco use is a significant public health concern, and I value the University Assembly’s efforts to decrease its impact on our students, faculty and staff. Medical evidence has long since proven the disastrous effects smoking and other forms of tobacco use have on the human body. I am also aware that studies have shown that workplaces with stricter tobacco control policies have lower smoking rates and reduced health care costs.

As a large university campus, students, faculty and staff members who are tobacco users could be required to travel long distances to get off-campus to use these products. Although achieving a smoke-free campus would no doubt encourage some individuals to quit using these addictive substances, others may consider a tobacco ban to be a significant personal restriction.

I agree that a referendum on the matter of creating a tobacco-free campus would help inform our decision making, and also provide an opportunity for those affected to have their voices heard. I appreciate the UA’s resolution calling for a 30-day comment period for all members of the Cornell community to submit statements supporting or opposing creating a tobacco-free campus. In addition, and consistent with its Charter, I encourage the UA to convene at least one public hearing on the matter, which would provide another valuable opportunity for all those affected to voice their support or opposition.

In addition to providing opportunities for dialog on the use of tobacco on campus, a referendum – along with the attendant comment period and public forum – would create an opportunity for a public education campaign on campus to enhance understanding about the negative health effects of tobacco use, an effort I would fully support.

Although I would welcome the results of a referendum and a community dialog as data points to help inform further decision-making on this issue, I do not support the resolution’s clause that makes the results of the referendum binding. Deciding whether to make Cornell’s Ithaca campus tobacco-free involves many considerations, and although popular opinion among our students, faculty and staff is chief among them, other concerns – about enforcement and the impact on staff on a sprawling campus – must not be overlooked.

Again, I greatly appreciate the Assembly’s work to address this important issue. Thank you for your efforts to make our campus a healthier place for studying, working and living.


Martha Pollack

Martha E. Pollack

President, Cornell University

300 Day Hall

Ithaca, NY 14853

Tel: 607-255-5201