Photo by Joe Lachance |CIGAR|

The University of Rhode Island is in the process of coordinating a tobacco free campus initiative.

Main objectives include ensuring all community members are respected and taken into consideration. Efforts to help smooth the transition for students and faculty have been brainstormed. Overall, the initiative will focus on providing the resources to facilitate smoking cessation.

Prior to configuring how this policy may be implemented, a community assessment was conducted through a survey. “We thought this would be received well in our community and distributed to all faculty and students,” Ellen Reynolds, director of URI Health Services, said. Essentially the survey took into consideration student and faculty input. From there the team, Reynolds, Dave Lavallee, Deborah Riebe and a health studies student, got the ball rolling.

“We are still in the early stages, we have made a draft. There are about 2,000 universities that have already done this,” Riebe, the associative dean for the College of Health Sciences said. Through compiling policies from multiple universities, the team has brainstormed best strategies of implementing this on our campus. Each community differs, and thus tailoring efforts will be critical in its success here at URI.

“Once that [drafting the policy] takes place, we will be going to the student senate and faculty senate,” Riebe said. At this point, town hall like meetings will be held. Feedback gathered from the community will be implemented. The tobacco free campus committee is open to incorporating feedback from community members into the policy. Overall, this makes the initiative more inclusive and respectful to all parties involved.

“We want this to be a very much so community effort, and make sure we have full support…we want to help many smokers quit before we implement the policy,” said Reynolds. Collaborating with the pharmacy department, smokers will be offered free services to help them quit smoking. These services will include nicotine replacement therapy and counseling. The hope is to help students and faculty quit smoking prior to early 2019, the projected policy implementation date.

“This is more of an educational approach,” said Reynolds. Through an educational lens, the team hopes to steer students and faculty towards healthier lifestyle choices. The hope is to implement a policy that benefits everyone’s health on campus. The school is focused on improving behavior to benefit a broader public health impact.

“In support we have all the key leaders on the campus,” said Lavallee, assistant director of communications. From an administrative perspective, the tobacco free initiative is supported. Currently, the American Cancer Society for Tobacco Free Campuses awarded a $20,000 grant to help supplement costs. The University has expressed support through additional monetary investment, upon approval and finalization of the policy.  

The proposal is contemplating whether or not e-cigs should be included as well. Although more recent, research has presented the negative impacts e-cigs have upon an individual’s health, making them not a safer alternative. The Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education reported a doubled risk of heart attack associated with daily e-cig use. Efforts such as these are intended with the community’s best interest at heart.  Meanwhile, students and faculty are encouraged to seek out replacement therapy to cut back and quit smoking. Protect your heart, afterall, you only have one.