The Truth About Tobacco

CVS Health Foundation teams up with Truth Initiative to launch program to help more HBCUs and Community Colleges Go Tobacco-Free

Truth Initiative® and the CVS Health Foundation are coming together to support historically black colleges and universities and community colleges across the country to 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 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-Americanslow-income neighborhoodsLGBTQ communities and other populations have been disproportionally targeted with tobacco marketing.

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 targeting 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.”

99% of smokers start before age 27. To prevent tobacco use, we focus our efforts where young people are - for many, that's college.

Since the launch of its tobacco-free 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 32 HBCUs and 50 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 respective campuses and developing public education campaigns to support tobacco- and smoke-free polices.

“Today’s young people are a generation with an unyielding commitment to diversity, inclusion 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 that the CVS Health Foundation is working with Truth Initiative to help HBCUs and community colleges adopt tobacco-free campus policies. 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.”

In addition to 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.

The “truth x CVS Health Foundation” tobacco-free campus initiative is part of CVS Health’s Be The First campaign, a five-year, $50 million commitment to help deliver the nation’s first tobacco-free generation. Be The First is funded through CVS Health and the CVS Health Foundation, and is directed at youth and young adults who currently smoke or are at risk of becoming regular tobacco users; the country’s 3 million elementary school children who, without early tobacco education, may become future tobacco users; and adult smokers who expose children to tobacco use. Since launching the campaign, CVS Health has reached nearly 5 million young people with anti-smoking programming and has helped 20 colleges and universities pursue 100% smoke-and tobacco-free campus policies.

“In the year since we introduced Be The First, we’ve seen very good progress, but we know there is much more to be done in schools, on college campuses and in our communities,” said Eileen Howard Boone, president of the CVS Health Foundation. “We’re pleased to sustain this momentum by identifying new partnerships with best-in-class organizations like the Truth Initiative that will bring the expertise needed to achieve our shared goal of a tobacco-free generation.”

For more program information, visit more about how tobacco is a social justice issue