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Truth Initiative and CVS launch program to help HBCUs and community colleges go tobacco-free

Truth Initiative® and the CVS Health Foundation are joining together to help historically black colleges and universities and community colleges across the country implement comprehensive smoke- or tobacco-free campus policies.

Less than half of the 102 federally-recognized HBCUs and about one-third of the 1,108 community colleges in the U.S. have comprehensive tobacco- or smoke-free policies.

The “truth x CVS Health Foundation” tobacco-free campus initiative follows the latest truth® campaign, #STOPPROFILING, which underscores that tobacco use is more than a public health issue—it’s a social justice issue. For years, African-Americans, low-income neighborhoodsLGBTQ communities and other marginalized populations have been disproportionally profiled with tobacco industry marketing.

Today’s young people are a generation with an unyielding commitment to diversity, inclusivity and equality

For example, in major cities like Washington D.C., there are up to 10 times more tobacco advertisements in African-American neighborhoods than in other neighborhoods. Other research has shown that low-income neighborhoods are more likely to have tobacco retailers near schools than other neighborhoods.

“Our partnership aims to counteract the decades of profiling of African-Americans and low-income communities by Big Tobacco,” said Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative. “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. 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 its college program in 2015, Truth Initiative has awarded funding to 135 colleges, and to date, 50 colleges have gone smoke- or tobacco-free. With the support of the CVS Health Foundation, Truth Initiative will expand technical assistance to 42 HBCUs and 64 community colleges to help advance their campus policy efforts. Students, faculty and staff at the schools are charged with developing a task force, assessing tobacco use on their campus and developing public education campaigns to support tobacco- and smoke-free polices.

The “truth x CVS Health Foundation” tobacco-free campus initiative is part of CVS Health’s Be The Firstcampaign, the company’s five-year, $50 million commitment to doubling the number of tobacco-free educational institutions in the U.S. and making the nation’s first tobacco-free generation.

“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, chief diversity officer at CVS Health. “We’re proud to work with Truth Initiative to help HBCUs and community colleges adopt tobacco-free campus policies. And by helping more colleges and universities go tobacco-free, we are taking an important step in achieving our shared goal of helping to deliver the first tobacco-free generation.”

Besides helping decrease smoking rates and change attitudes toward tobacco use, smoke- and tobacco-free campus policies provide economic and environmental benefits. They reduce cigarette litter, maintenance costs and the risk of fire. They also prepare students for the workforce, as an increasing number of worksites are prohibiting the use of tobacco.

Learn more about how tobacco is a social justice issue.