Is there any data to suggest there would be large numbers of students who would participate in the smoking cessation program?

Date: July 2017



I recently read your response to the Fitness-Conscious Ph.D. Student and had some comments and questions.

Is there any data that would suggest that there would be potential for a larger number students to participate in the smoking cessation program? Personally I only know of one person who smokes in my department. On the other hand, I see many people take the fitness classes, some of whom go frequently enough to apply for the reimbursement. The number of people who could get the fitness reimbursement seems vastly larger than the people who could participate in a smoking cessation program.

You also say the fitness reimbursement program was not widely used. I think a strong reason would be the lack of advertising of the program. After finding out about the program, I passed on the information to many friends who also attended classes and most of them did not know about it. If I had know about the program when I first started grad school I would have joined right away, but I didn’t find out until a couple semester later.


Interested in Fitness Reimbursement


Dear Interested in Fitness Reimbursement,

Your question is a follow-up to a recent “Ask a Dean” message that inquired about why the 2017-18 Student Health Plan (SHP) no longer includes the Exercise Facility Reimbursement for Cornell fitness centers. I understand that you have been in contact with Craig McAllister, Cornell’s director of risk management, and that he has sent you a detailed response. Perhaps I can also share a bit of context since I serve on the Student Health Benefits Advisory Committee (SHBAC) along with a number of graduate, professional, and undergraduate students, and several other staff representatives. The committee meets monthly to review the benefits offered by the Student Health Plan (SHP) and the health fee to ensure they are meeting students’ needs. We also strive to keep overall plan costs down, which is incredibly difficult in this environment of ever-increasing medical and pharmacy prices.

When the SHBAC discussed the Exercise Facility Reimbursement we considered the number of users, and also the rather high cost per participant. Some students clearly loved having their fitness membership subsidized, but others voiced frustration that no subsidies were offered for other fitness activities like intramural sports, memberships at non-Cornell gyms, or to students who had costs related to running or biking. We also did not have any data to show that the reimbursement program incentivized participants to increase healthy their behaviors. Such data would have been compelling to me since the cost of the program was passed along to everyone who pays for coverage in the Student Health Plan. We also learned that the reimbursement program had been implemented quickly in response to a New York regulation in 2015-16, but that rule that has since been revised to allow other “healthy life habit” options for the plan. 

I’m sure the Student Health Benefits Advisory Committee would be interested to hear your feedback. As Dean Knuth mentioned, you may send comments to Mr. Craig McAllister at so that he can consider this issue in the future with the SHBAC.

Best regards,


Jason Kahabka
Associate Dean for Administration