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HBCUs want to kick cigarettes and their butts off campus…

HBCUsHBCUs want to kick cigarettes and their butts off campus…

Regina Benjamin, M.D.

By Frederick H. Lowe

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from

      ( – Thirty-three of the nation’s 105 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)  announced on Wednesday they have kicked off a Tobacco-Free HBCU Campus Initiative, led by former U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, M.D.

In addition to Dr. Benjamin, the program is led by Truth Initiative (, a Washington, D.C. –based organization funded and established through the 1998 Master Settlement-agreement between attorney generals from 46 states, the District of Columbia, five territories and the tobacco industry.  The nation’s five largest tobacco companies agree to pay the groups $10 billion annually indefinitely. The Truth Initiative will provide grants schools to fund no-smoking and no-tobacco campaigns. The amount of each grant was not disclosed.

“For decades, the tobacco industry has targeted minority communities, particularly African Americans, with intense advertising and promotional efforts,” said Dr. Benjamin, who was the nation’s 18th surgeon general, serving from Nov. 3, 2009 to July 16, 2013.

“As a result of this investment, African Americans suffer the greatest burden of tobacco-related mortality of any ethnic or racial group in the U.S.”

Lung cancer, which is largely attributed to cigarette smoking is the leading cause of cancer deaths among Black men and Black women, according to the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures for American Americans for 2013-2014. Each year, approximately 47,000 African Americans die from smoking-related diseases.

Lung cancer is also the second-leading cause of cancer cases among black men and black women, according to the American Cancer Society. While the number of young people who smoke has dropped, smoking is still prevalent among African Americans.

HBCUs are laggard when it comes to establishing tobacco-free campuses. The number of smoke-free or tobacco-free colleges has tripled since 2010, when 446 campuses became smoke free. The number is now 1,577, yet the majority of HBCU’s are not smoke- free.

Although HBCUs have been slow to move to smoke-or tobacco-free campuses, they are in step in with many prominent African-American institutions, including the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the non-profit arm of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The African-American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, an anti-smoking group, has complained that the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation receives a sizeable percentage of its annual budget from the tobacco industry.

“Working with HBCUs, we can reach young adults at risk of starting to smoke cigarettes and alternative tobacco products such as little cigars and cigarillos,” said Robin Koval, CEO and president of the Truth Initiative. “HBCUs are home to students and faculty who deserve to enjoy healthy tobacco environments.”

Shaw University hosted the Truth Initiative and the 33 HBCUs.

“We look forward to collaborating with other HBCUs to end tobacco use on our campuses and protect our community from tobacco –related illness and disease,” said Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy, Shaw’s president. Each college is to develop its own anti-smoking campaign.


Here is the list of schools participating in the smoke-out: Alcorn State University, Alcorn, Miss.;  Arkansas Baptist College, Little Rock, Miss.; Benedict College, Columbia, S.C; Bluefield State, Bluefield, W. Va.; Bowie State University, Bowie, Md.;  Cheyney University, Cheyney, Pa.; Coahoma Community College, Clarksdale, Miss.;  Fisk University, Nashville, Tenn.; Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, Fla.; Florida Memorial University, Miami Gardens, Fla.;  Hinds Community College, Utica, Miss.; Howard University, Washington, D.C.; Jackson State University, Jackson, Miss.;  Jarvis Christian College, Hawkins, Tenn.; Lincoln University, Lincoln University, Pa.; Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tenn.; Mississippi Valley State University, Itta Bena, Miss.; Morris College, Sumter, S.C.; Norfolk State University, Norfolk, Va.; North Carolina Central University, Durham, N.C.; North Carolina A&T University, Greensboro, N.C.;  Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, Texas;  Rust College, Holly Springs, Miss.; Southwestern Christian College, Terrell, Texas; Spelman College, Atlanta, Ga.;  Shaw University, Raleigh, N.C.; St. Augustine’s University, Raleigh, N.C.; Shorter College, North Little Rock, Ark.; Talladega College, Talladega, Ala.; Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tenn.;  Texas College, Tyler, Texas;  University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, Princess Anne, Md.; and University of the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C.

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