Tobacco Free Campus finishes its final report

The Tobacco Free Campus Committee — an effort to ban tobacco products on campus — released its final report during the summer after months without progress on it. The University of Maine administration will submit a verdict on the report before Winter break.

Vice President of Student Affairs Robert Dana said UMaine President Robert Kennedy will announce the verdict on the tobacco-free campus policy. If the policy is approved, there will be a year-long transition period before the tobacco ban is implemented.

“We’re not telling people ‘don’t smoke,’ but the university does not encourage it,” Dana said.

Dana said if the initiative became policy, the university would provide resources and support to students who are unwilling to comply with the ban. He said the university would not immediately punish students for not complying with such a ban.

Jake Poirier, a third-year student, supports the initiative.

“I’ve never smoked, and I don’t like the smell,” Poirier said. “Smokers should take the time to smoke somewhere else if they really need it.”

Dana said complaints are expected and the administration is prepared for them if the initiative is implemented.

“Some people think it’s too heavy, like it’s Big Brother,” Dana said.

Jessie Colby, a first-year communication science and disorders student, said people would smoke anyway.

“Smokers are adults, and they can make their own choices,” Colby said.

First-year international affairs student Aly Desimone asked, “What about the freshmen who have to live here? Do they have to drive off campus just for a cigarette?”

If the initiative is approved, Dana said the university hopes some people may stop smoking altogether.

“The university feels responsible for the health of its students and staff,” Dana said.

In a related vein, a study has recently found texting can help people kick their smoking addiction.

Txt2Quit is a text message-based smoking cessation service, based on a study conducted by the University of Auckland in New Zealand. The study found smokers who use the program for a year can double the chances of quitting.

UMaine may adopt a system similar to Txt2Quit as the campus considers becoming tobacco free. According to a 2007 report, 9 percent of UMaine employees smoke and 6.1 percent of students use cigarettes daily. Txt2Quit is comparable to the texting system the school uses to alert students about emergencies.

“You need something to do with your hands,” said Lauri Sidelko, director of Alcohol and Drug Education programs on campus. “You’re looking for nicotine, the perception that it calms you down.” She said adopting the system would depend on the cost of the program and support. “It could work. I could see us getting there, especially if we go tobacco free.”

Txt2Quit is successful because mobile phones are integrated into daily life and are always accessible. Robyn Whittaker, a researcher at the University of Auckland, said to Bio-Medicine — an online publication — “It makes a lot of sense. They [texting services] are more proactive, delivering directly to people wherever they are.”

Texting may not work as the sole way to quit smoking. According to Sidelko, it usually takes the majority of smokers seven or more times to quit for good.

“It depends on what works for the individual,” Sidelko said. “The more they try, the more successful they’ll be. But it usually takes a couple of different methods.”

Participants of Txt2Quit receive two or three text messages a day for 26 weeks before a designated quit date. Texts contain facts about smoking, tips on quitting and support while quitting and they allow users to respond to polls. Users can also send messages to the service when they crave a cigarette.

“A vast majority of people want a tobacco-free campus,” Dana said. “I think it’s going to be good.”

By Ashley Pearson and Melinda Hart
October 29th, 2009

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