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.
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
Several faculty and staff at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health have been involved with crafting and communicating the policy.
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.
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.”
“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.”
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
For more information on smoking cessation resources available to University employees, visit the Environment, Health and Safety website.