The University of New Mexico will soon be a tobacco-free campus beginning Saturday, Aug. 1. The new policy includes not only cigarettes, but smokeless tobacco as well, and will be fully implemented by the time students and faculty return for the fall semester Monday, Aug. 24. The primary reason behind the tobacco-free initiative is to have a healthy environment for people to work and students to learn.
The new tobacco-free policy affects all areas of main campus, north campus, south campus and athletics, and UNM’s Continuing Education Center. The branch campuses must comply with the Dee Johnson Clean Indoor Air Act.
UNM’s indoor facilities have been smoke-free for more than a decade. In 2007, the UNM Health Sciences Center followed suit and became completely smoke free environment, seeking benefits for students, faculty, staff and patients alike. Additionally, the UNM Valencia campus also went smoke-free two years ago.
Pug Burge, co-chair of the Smoke Free Environment Committee, says the committee presented the revised policy to a number of campus groups to help prepare them for the upcoming changes. She also points out that the initiative is gaining ground across the nation at other universities and colleges.
“This is the way university and college campuses are going,” said Burge. “Last October, about 160 universities and colleges were completely smoke free. Now, more than 300 universities and colleges are smoke free.”
UNM President David J. Schmidly says the policy is not intended to be anti-smoker.
“I am aware of the impact this initiative may have upon many smokers and understand this may be uncomfortable for many,” said Schmidly. “Becoming a smoke free environment does not mean ‘smoker-free’ or ‘anti-smoker.’ It means supporting each other to choose healthy lifestyles and supporting everybody with options to help them make the best choices for themselves and for their families.”
The policy changes, which were available for a 30-day review and comment period in April, are based on input from faculty, staff, students, and the public made at the recent town forums, open committee meetings, and through UNM’s Smoke Free website.
As part of the transition policy, designated smoking areas will be established for use when the policy takes effect. The policy states: “These designated areas are being provided to create a positive transition for individuals who currently use tobacco as UNM phases into a totally tobacco-free environment. As students and employees achieve success in quitting smoking and stopping the use of tobacco, the designated areas will be eliminated within a five-year period.”
The adverse health effects of cigarette smoke, both first and secondhand, have been well documented over the years. Some of the facts about smoking from the Surgeon General and the New Mexico Department of Health include:
· 30% of all cancers are caused by tobacco use
· More than 2,080 New Mexican die annually from smoking
· An estimated 42,000 New Mexicans suffer with at least one serious illness from smoking
· Smokers have 6.5 more days of absenteeism than nonsmokers each year
· Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causing many diseases and reducing the health of smokers in general
· Secondhand smoke causes heart disease and lung cancer
Based on established facts, the Surgeon General has concluded that smoke-free workplace policies are the only effective way to eliminate secondhand smoke exposure in the workplace. Other local large entities that have enacted smoke-free environments include UNM HSC, Presbyterian Hospital and Sandia National Labs.
“This has been a committee effort,” said Schmidly. “There have been many dedicated individuals who have served on this committee and I want to thank them for their efforts in helping to provide a healthy environment for students, faculty and staff.”
Several UNM departments, including Student Health & Counseling (SHAC), Employee Health Promotion Program (EHPP), and the Campus Office of Substance Abuse Prevention (COSAP), are offering a number of cessation techniques. For more information visit: COSAP, EHPP or Student Health Center.
For general information about UNM’s new tobacco free policy visit: UNM Smoke Free. Individuals may also contact Pug Burge, co-chair of the Smoke Free Environment Committee at (505) 272-2652 or via e-mail: [email protected].