OGDEN, Utah – Weber State University’s Student Health Center and the Department of Health Promotion and Human Performance (HPHP) have received a $5,000 grant from the Weber-Morgan Health Department to explore the possibility of becoming a tobacco-free campus.
The grant will help support a coalition of students, faculty and staff who are developing a strategic plan to gauge the campus community’s level of support for adopting a tobacco-free policy in order to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke.
According to the 2007 Utah Health Behavior Study, a little more than five percent of the WSU student body surveyed responded that they had smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days, and approximately 80 percent of the students said they would support a tobacco-free policy on campus.
The Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) coalition includes four students majoring in health promotion and one pursuing a degree in health administrative services. Hanalee Hawkins, a prevention specialist with the Student Health Center, and HPHP instructor James Bemel serve as co-advisers to the coalition.
The coalition is planning to schedule forums for members of the campus community to weigh in on the issue during spring semester.
“We recognize this proposal is going to affect people on the campus, so we’d like to communicate with them up front, gain their input and hopefully garner their support,” Hawkins said. “We anticipate hearing from current smokers who will have concerns about pursuing this policy.”
Hawkins believes education is the key. She said research shows that once you change someone’s environment, it contributes to that person’s ability to change habits or quit smoking. Hawkins said the majority of smokers would like to stop, but on average it takes smokers six or seven attempts to successfully quit.
According to Hawkins and Bemel, more and more college campuses are adopting tobacco-free policies as part of a national trend. Smoke-free policies have been implemented at 97 college campuses in the United States, with 17 states enacting similar comprehensive policies. Hawkins said several Utah communities have passed smoke-free policies for parks and recreation areas, including Davis County. A similar proposal is being considered by the Weber-Morgan Health Department.
These policies are intended to reduce the risk of exposure to secondhand smoke. The American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute estimate that between 38,000 and 53,000 non-smoking Americans die each year from heart disease, lung cancer and other respiratory ailments caused by secondhand smoke.
Hawkins has been impressed by the enthusiasm and dedication shown by the SWAT coalition. She said the students have volunteered a lot of energy and personal time on the project, but a lot of work remains to be done.
Once feedback is gathered, a formal proposal will need to be drafted and reviewed by several governing bodies at the university, including the student and faculty senates, President’s Council and the Board of Trustees. If the campus community is supportive, Hawkins would like to see a new policy in place by January 2009.
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