School of Public Health supports UNC Smoke-Free Policy, effective Jan. 1, 2008

December 12, 2007
Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but it can be done.
So begins a message distributed recently by the American Cancer Society.

UNC Smoke-free on Jan. 1!

UNC Smoke-free on Jan. 1!

It is a message well-timed for faculty, staff and students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The University is promoting a new policy requiring the campus to be smoke-free by Jan. 1, 2008. Smoking inside campus buildings has not been allowed for many years, but on Jan. 1, smoking within 100 feet of University buildings also will be prohibited.

The policy was developed in response to research citing risks associated with second-hand smoke.

Of the nearly half-million Americans who die from smoking-related diseases every year, more than 35,000 die from exposure to second-hand smoke. In North Carolina alone, the yearly toll from others’ smoking is estimated to be between 1,200 and 2,200 adults, children and infants.

How the university developed its smoke-free policy
After the North Carolina legislature granted permission to enact a smoke-free policy, a committee appointed by Chancellor James Moeser worked to formulate the details. The committee had two goals – to collect and consider the suggestions of all affected groups on campus and to ensure that adequate support be available for people who wanted to stop smoking.

Several faculty and staff at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health have been involved with crafting and communicating the policy.


Photograph, Dr. Cathy Melvin

Photograph, Dr. Cathy Melvin

Cathy Melvin, MPH, PhD, research associate professor in maternal and child health, served as an adviser and technical resource to the University committee and the Employee Forum. Her expertise is in dissemination of research and reproductive health, including smoking during pregnancy.

“Much of the committee’s discussion focused on those smokers who want to quit smoking,” Melvin said. “The University wanted to make sure that smokers were aware of services available through the N.C. State Health Plan and UNC’s Nicotine Dependence Program. The goal was to allow sufficient time for smokers to quit prior to implementation of the policy. The services we have are very comprehensive and offer smokers many options. In addition to these formal sources of help, it is important for all of us to offer encouragement and support to smokers who are trying to quit.”

Members of the Chancellor’s committee also wanted to hear from faculty, staff, students and others on campus who would be affected by the new rule.

The Faculty Council, the Employee Forum and several student organizations passed resolutions in favor of UNC going smoke-free on or before Jan. 1.

Dean Barbara K. Rimer and other deans and center directors wrote to the Chancellor in support of the new policy. These resolutions and letters were influential in how quickly the smoke-free policy was put into place.

“I tried to stop many times.”
“Many of us have heard these words from smokers who want to quit,” said Brenda Motsinger, director of special projects in the dean’s office at the School of Public Health. Motsinger was charged with shaping the way the School, as a leader in public health, took part in the roll-out of the policy.

Photograph, Brenda Motsinger

Photograph, Brenda Motsinger

“We know that smoking bans are effective in reducing exposure to secondhand smoke,” Motsinger said. “But they also help smokers who want to quit. Tobacco users exposed to smoking bans quit at a greater rate than those not exposed. So during the next few months, as we implement the UNC-Chapel Hill smoke-free campus policy, we have a real opportunity to encourage and support smokers who are attempting to quit. We need to work together to achieve our public health goal – to eliminate death and disability from tobacco use.”

Vernon Perry, husband of a UNC graduate student and staff member, agrees that quitting is hard and smoking restrictions and bans are useful in the process. “As a person who has stopped smoking, I consider myself in recovery,” Perry said. “Any spaces that do not allow smoking are a welcome refuge from the powerful addictive nature of tobacco.”


Photograph, Dr. Kurt Ribisl

Photograph, Dr. Kurt Ribisl

Kurt Ribisl, PhD, associate professor of health behavior and health education, focuses his research interests on tobacco control policy and information technology. He has studied tobacco industry marketing strategies in retail outlets, interventions to reduce youth access to tobacco and portrayals of smoking on the Internet.

“I am thrilled that UNC will soon have a smoke-free campus – it sends a powerful message about valuing the health of our students, employees and visitors,” Ribisl said. “And I’m proud of our University for providing resources to help people quit smoking – by promoting the toll-free Quitline [800-QUIT-NOW] and offering programs and subsidized [smoking cessation] medications.”

If you need help to quit
By using at least one of the methods listed below, someone trying to quit smoking can double his or her chances of being successful.

  • Self-help materials can help smokers develop strategies to cope with cravings and prevent relapse. These materials offer proven methods that are easy to follow and can keep motivation high.Through a donation from MetLife, the UNC Work/Life Office offers “Quit Kits.” Each kit contains self-help resources and information about becoming tobacco-free. UNC employees may receive a Quit Kit by contacting Aimee Krans at
  • There are many types of support groups available, including group smoking cessation programs, telephone counseling programs and psychological support groups. To learn about options where you live, contact the American Cancer Society at 800-ACS-2345 or Carolina has a Tobacco Use Quitline. Callers can speak to trained specialists who, upon request, can call participants periodically to check on progress. The Quitline provides free support and information for all North Carolinians, both adolescents and adults, in English, Spanish and other languages.

    Call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) between 8 a.m. and midnight, seven days a week. Hearing-impaired persons may call TTY 877-777-6534.

  • Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can relieve nicotine withdrawal symptoms that occur when a person stops smoking. NRT can double a person’s chances of successfully quitting. A physician can help develop a successful strategy for people who want to quit.
  • The State Health Plan will waive the $5 co-pay on over-the-counter generic nicotine patches.

For more information on smoking cessation resources available to University employees, visit the Environment, Health and Safety website.


School of Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, director of communications, (919) 966-7467 or