Home Education As OU works toward tobacco-free campus, students celebrate small strides

As OU works toward tobacco-free campus, students celebrate small strides

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As students walked throughout South Green on Ohio University’s campus Thursday, many walked down a heavily-trafficked path past a solemn display of hundreds of blue ribbons, staked in the ground, each one to mark 1,000 tobacco-related deaths in 2012. The gesture is just one of the steps OU is making to become a healthier campus, and to honor the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 21.

As OU attempts to follow in the footsteps of some fellow Ohio colleges to strive toward a tobacco-free campus, a small group of students celebrated the completion of a four-week tobacco cessation program on a nationally-recognized day in which the American Cancer Society encourages Americans to give up tobacco.

The four week course, made free to students by the Office of Health Promotion through the Campus Involvement Center, was started to help provide a jumping off point for students to stop all types of tobacco use. Although the organizers of the program hope the classes will work toward a healthier overall campus, they stress that the program is not directly affiliated with the Tobacco-Free Implementation Team and OU’s overall planning to make campus tobacco free.

“At the same time we were discussing the classes, there were talks going around about the university going tobacco-free; however, our decision to go ahead and start these classes was not really based on that because the decision hadn’t been made yet. We are coming from a health perspective,” said Ann Addington, the assistant director for Health Promotion and one of the certified teachers of the class. “We want our students to be as healthy as possible.”

The classes took place every Thursday, one offered at noon and another at 5 p.m., with the last class taking place on the Great American Smokeout. Addington, along with her graduate assistant and a student intern, all became trained to facilitate the classes by the American Cancer Society’s Freshstart program. The Office of Health Promotion has decided to offer the completely voluntary courses every semester “until there is no more need,” Addington said. The initial course included 26 students, and Addington mentioned that only a few did not finish.

“After the classes they may decide to pick a quit date, and they may not. We don’t force that on them at all,” Addington said. “We make sure that the people that are there really want to make that commitment.”

The course is free to students, as the Campus Involvement Center currently absorbs the roughly $1 per student cost for pamphlets and other teaching tools. The group also received money through U.Fund, a college investment plan, in the amount of $1,750 to purchase two weeks of nicotine gum or patches for participants, a cost that would set a student back $49.99 at CVS.

Completion of the course earns a voucher that can be taken to local clinics like Campus Care as a prescription for the therapy.

“Our concerns were that, we know that nicotine is highly addictive and that we care about the health of the students, but we also care about opportunities they might have when they leave college. A lot of employers who are drug-testing are testing for nicotine, and students often have to give up smoking for it,” Addington said. “We want to make sure our students can have as many opportunities as possible when they leave here.”

Stressing again that though the tobacco cessation classes are part of a greater cause to help OU as a whole be a healthier place, the decision to facilitate the classes was not a direct affiliation with any of OU’s tobacco-free plans. Addington does, however, serve on the Tobacco-Free Implementation Team with other administrators such as Vice President for Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi and University Ombudsperson Judy Piercy.

Piercy, the chair of the team, said that the purpose of the task force is not to write any concrete law on tobacco policy, but rather to recommend a comprehensive plan that the university can follow.

“My hope is that we’ll be able to share with the university community by the end of this semester or in January the progress of our team to-date,” Piercy said, noting that this year is dedicated to developing a recommendation so that in the next two, the campus can go tobacco-free. Any baby steps made anywhere along the way are all progress. “Clearly, the issue of helping tobacco users participate in cessation programs, should they choose, is a significant interest of ours.”

Maxwell Enslen, a junior studying health safety administration, expressed concern about the possibility of a tobacco-free OU.

“I think a lot of us would see a tobacco ban as unfair and inconsiderate for those of us who are unfortunately addicted,” Enslen said. “It’s stigmatized enough already.”

 

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