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August 22, 2011

To the University of Miami Community:

If we only knew then what we know now.

We believe that wisdom and smarter choices come with time and experience. Warning signs are often the collective voice of hard-earned lessons—slow down, dangerous curve ahead; children are crossing, stop.

Just so, federally required warning labels on tobacco products are a constant reminder of vital, lifesaving lessons learned. So how is it that almost a half-century since the U.S. surgeon general first reported on the health hazards of cigarette smoking, Americans continue to light up?

Scores of research findings irrefutably demonstrate that tobacco products are harmful to your health. Just as significantly, we’ve confirmed that exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke negatively affects non-smokers as well.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease and death in the United States, with some 443,000 people dying prematurely each year from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, and another 8.6 million living with a smoking-related serious illness.

Yet here’s the real zinger: Despite these risks, approximately 46.6 million U.S. adults smoke cigarettes. Our friends and loved ones deserve better than this.

That’s why as a community committed to creating a healthy living and working environment, the University of Miami is launching the first step in a three-year initiative to make our Coral Gables campus smoke free. Starting on September 1, 2011, smoking will only be permitted in designated areas on University property. Additional information on our new policy, including a map with the designated smoking locations, is available at www.miami.edu/smokefree. This website also provides links to a myriad of helpful resources on smoking-cessation programs, including our own national award-winning Be Smoke Free program. If you are ready to quit, we are ready to help.

I am especially proud that this new policy began with a student-led initiative and is backed by your Student Government, Graduate Student Association, and Student Bar Association. A recent survey of 2,186 students found that 59 percent agree or strongly agree to have designated smoking areas throughout the campus, while 63 percent agree or strongly agree on having a completely smoke-free campus. What’s more, we will be joining our colleagues at the Miller School of Medicine campus, which has been entirely smoke free since March 2010.

We’re doing this for our students, co-workers, visitors, families, friends, and you. Let’s all live smoke free.