The University of Missouri on Monday will become a smoke-free campus, joining more than 1,100 other smoke-free colleges and universities in the United States.
Smokers on campus won’t be fined or jailed, of course. But they may be reminded of the new policy by others in the MU community, and could be reported to their supervisor or department head.
Banned are cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookahs, water pipes and e-cigarettes, which don’t emit smoke but do create confusion because they resemble cigarettes. The policy will join the 2006 tobacco-free implementation on MU Health Care campus property. (“Tobacco-free” also bans chewing tobacco.)
Smoke-Free Mizzou has been been long in the making. For years smoking was not allowed in MU buildings, but it wasn’t until 2009 that smoking was banned outdoors within 20 feet of building entrances. In July 2011, as phase one of Smoke-Free Mizzou, outdoor smoking was confined to 15 designated areas and the top floor of parking structures.
Students have supported the incremental bans. Monday’s implementation was originally set for Jan. 1, 2014, until students asked for an earlier date. “It’s been a student-led initiative,” said Tiffany Bowman, tobacco cessation coordinator for MU’s Wellness Resource Center.
Why the change?
Some workers wonder why designated outdoor smoking areas aren’t a fair compromise. Yvonne Simmons, an office support associate in Campus Dining Services, has smoked off and on for 20 years. “I don’t think it’s fair to me as an individual,” she said between puffs at the smoking area outside the Student Center. “People are still going to smoke. They will find a way. It will be a game of cat and mouse.”
Two reasons for the ban are the health dangers of secondhand smoke and the ambiguous message sent by designated smoking areas, said Kevin Everett, associate professor of psychology and researcher of tobacco addiction and cessation programs.
The Surgeon General has released several reports, most recently in 2010, finding that inhaled secondhand smoke places nonsmokers at risk for heart disease, stroke, various cancers and respiratory ailments. People sitting near or walking by outdoor smoking areas are susceptible to breathing secondhand smoke.
But the larger problem is that designated smoking areas imply that smoking is allowed on campus anywhere outdoors, Everett said. The areas are also gateways for employees and students to take up the habit; studies show that most smokers became hooked by their mid 20s.
“We needed a cleaner policy,” Everett said. “Smoking in designated areas does not work.”
A bit of pushback is expected, but most of the smoke-free campuses in America report compliance from students and employees. For her part, Simmons said she would comply with the MU policy.
At other smoke-free universities, some smokers reacted to the policy by taking cigarette breaks off campus, where they leave behind piles of butts on city and private property. While MU has no control over non-campus property, “we would certainly encourage anyone smoking [off campus] to dispose of their cigarettes in the nearest appropriate receptacle and be respectful of others’ property,” MU spokesperson Christian Basi said.
MU administrators are aware that tact will be needed when approaching campus smokers. “We know this will require an ongoing education effort, and many people, especially campus visitors, might not be aware of the policy,” Basi said.
Enforcement is up to the MU community. Politely remind people of the policy, Bowman said, and if there’s resistance, an option is to contact the offender’s supervisor or department head.
A broader reason for the new policy is to motivate smokers to quit. Due to advances in science and extensive clinical studies, cessation drugs and counseling programs have a good success rate, Everett said. “Most people don’t quit on the first try,” he said. “But there are now more ex-smokers than current smokers [in the U.S.].”
MU offers smoking cessation programs for students and employees. Faculty and staff can sign up for programs administered by the UM System Healthy for Life wellness program. Choice Health Care members are eligible for free phone counseling sessions, web access and email support, and can receive gum, patches or lozenges to curb nicotine craving.
Smoking cessation medications are covered by the UM Prescription Drug Plan with a doctor’s prescription.
The Wellness Resource Center offers students free nicotine replacement therapy patches, counseling, assistance in developing a personalized quit plan and peer support.
Dilauna Burks, an administrative assistant in the College of Education, smoked for 30 years before quitting five years ago with help from Healthy for Life. The prescription drug Chantix reduced her nicotine craving, and counseling sessions taught her how to manage her stress without cigarettes. She also became more active. “Instead of smoke, I walk,” Burks said.
For more information, including cessation programs and a map of campus boundaries that will be posted Monday, Smoke-Free Mizzou.