Campus goes tobacco-free by Nov. 15, offers resources for faculty, staff and students to help them quit
As the University of Mississippi continues on its path to creating a tobacco-free campus, health leaders remind faculty, staff and students that many resources are available to help them stop using nicotine.
The American College Health Association, the U.S. Surgeon General and others note that tobacco use in any form is a significant health hazard. The ACHA encourages colleges and universities to be diligent in their efforts to achieve a 100% indoor and outdoor campuswide tobacco-free environment.
UM is in its third year of implementing ACHA-recommended policy changes, along with changes that were the fruit of campus focus groups, all to become a healthier campus. The goal is for total campus compliance is Nov. 15, putting Ole Miss among more than 2,100 campuses nationwide that have committed to becoming tobacco-free.
“It is important to the University of Mississippi to protect employees and students from exposure to smoke and electronic delivery devices to cultivate a healthy UM campus community by creating an environment free of tobacco,” said Erin Cromeans, assistant director for wellness education at the William Magee Center for Wellness Education.
The William Magee Center has a tobacco cessation consultant on staff and can help with a variety of wellness issues related to tobacco use. University Health Services pharmacy can provide nicotine replacement therapy to students, faculty and staff. More information about available resources to quit can be found here.
The university received a “Tobacco Free Generation Campus Initiative” grant in 2018, which started the conversations about policies, campus trends and the possible adoption of a tobacco-free policy. In 2019, gatherings of faculty, staff and students were used as focus groups to determine a path forward, which included creating tobacco cessation resources before drafting and adoption of any new policy.
UM’s “Smoke Free and Tobacco Free Campus Policy” was officially adopted in January. It prohibits the use of electronic smoking devices, vapes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, cigarettes, hookahs and other tobacco products on campus.
Helping those who want to stop using nicotine was a major focus of those conversations, Cromeans said.
“As we move into the policy adoption, it is important to notify our campus community about the change and support those interested in seeking cessation services,” Cromeans said.
Smoking remains a major health hazard in the United States. The percentage of adults 18 or older who reported any tobacco product use “some days” or “every day” is high, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 17% of adults aged 18 to 24 years, 24% of adults aged 25 to 44 years, 21% of adults aged 45 to 64 years and 12% of adults aged 65 years or older said they used a tobacco product, according to the study.
The UM policy also includes prohibiting the use of vapes and electronic smoking devices, which have risen in popularity in recent years. In 2015, the surgeon general reported e-cigarette use among high school students had increased 900% over the previous four years, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Vaping allows the user to choose from thousands of flavors, but the risks associated with the substances has become more understood and new ailments have emerged from the practice.
In 2019, the CDC identified a new lung disease called “e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury,” or EVALI, and reports that as of 2020, it had confirmed thousands of hospitalizations due to EVALI, with more than 60 deaths.
CDC research shows almost 70 percent of adult cigarette smokers say they want to stop using tobacco, noted Sierra Elston, Magee Center coordinator of wellness education.
“Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, and quitting tobacco use often requires multiple attempts,” Elston said. “Research suggests that diversifying the techniques used to quit increases chances of success.
“There is no ‘failed’ attempt as long as tobacco users continue making an active effort towards progress.”
The university has long taken seriously its role in providing a healthy campus and has provided tobacco cessation services for years. The University Health Services pharmacy can provide nicotine replacement therapy to students, faculty and staff.
The therapy includes the most common form of smoking cessation medications, and it uses small patches, gums, inhalers or other forms of delivering nicotine into the body without the other harmful chemicals found in tobacco. For more information about nicotine replacement therapy, call University Health Services at 915-7274.
“This policy is intended to encourage our campus community to improve their health by reducing and eliminating their use of tobacco products,” Cromeans said. “We respect both users and non-users and are confident this policy and tobacco cessation opportunities will assist all groups as we transition to a tobacco-free campus.”
By Michael Newsom