Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport has been awarded $20,000 to help it become a tobacco-free campus, one of three colleges in the state to receive the health grant.

Funding comes from the CVS Health Foundation, in partnership with the Truth Initiative and the American Cancer Society. Together they are providing $1.4 million in grants to 82 colleges and universities across the country to help them pursue a 100 percent smoke- and tobacco-free policy, including limiting the use of e-cigarettes.

Previously, Fairfield University and Naugatuck Valley Community College received grants through the program. Fairfield’s is ending this month.

While conventional cigarette smoking among high school students has fallen by almost 50 percent since 2011 — to a record low of 4.6 percent — e-cigarette use has surged over the past year, especially among young people, data show.

There are now said to be 2.8 million young adults ages 18 to 24 who are e-cigarette users. The spread of e-cigarettes risks a reversal of the progress made in reducing smoking over the past two decades, according to the American Cancer Society.

Young people who “vape” are said to be four times more likely to begin smoking cigarettes in the future.

Robin Koval, chief executive officer and president of Truth Initiative, said the rapid rise in e-cigarette use threatens to erase the progress made in reducing teen smoking.

“Over the years, we've had great success in working with colleges to go smoke- and tobacco-free,” Koval said. “They now play a critical role in also addressing the e-cigarette epidemic as vaping becomes even more prevalent on campuses across the U.S. Together with our partners, we look forward to empowering as many colleges and universities as possible with the information and resources they need to end all tobacco use for good.”

Tobacco-use remains one of the leading causes of preventable death in the country, according to Eileen Howard Boone, president of the CVS Health Foundation.

“By helping more colleges and universities explore and execute on tobacco-free policies, we’re able to positively influence the number of new college-age smokers,” she said.

While smoking is off limits on much of the Housatonic and Fairfield U campuses, there are still designated smoking areas, college officials there said.

At Housatonic, the office of student life has identified two students to lead peer education and engagement initiatives. A college-wide task force comprised of students, faculty, staff, administration and community members will be developed. A college-wide survey will be conducted and classes will be held in cessation and stress relief through yoga and art therapy, administrators

said.

lclambeck@ctpost.com; twitter/lclambeck