Northeastern to adopt smoke-​​free campus policy

After gath­ering infor­ma­tion through dili­gent research and reviewing feed­back from hun­dreds of North­eastern com­mu­nity mem­bers, a com­mittee com­prising stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff has rec­om­mended that the uni­ver­sity adopt a cam­puswide smoke-​​free policy.

The com­mittee sub­mitted its rec­om­men­da­tion to the university’s senior lead­er­ship team and is cur­rently devel­oping a com­pre­hen­sive imple­men­ta­tion plan for the policy, which will go into effect this fall.

The deci­sion to go smoke-​​free dove­tails with Northeastern’s focus on solving global chal­lenges in health. According to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, some 443,000 people die each year from smoking or expo­sure to second-​​hand smoke. What’s more, tobacco use is the single most pre­ventable cause of dis­ease, dis­ability, and death in the United States.

“This new policy reflects Northeastern’s long-​​standing com­mit­ment to pro­moting a healthy and safe envi­ron­ment,” said Terry Fulmer, dean of the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences, in a cam­puswide memo on Monday. Fulmer is co-​​chair of the com­mittee along with John Auer­bach, director of the Insti­tute on Urban Health Research and Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Prac­tice in Bouvé’s Depart­ment of Health Sci­ences. “We look for­ward to updating the campus com­mu­nity in the coming months and working with stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff as we join the more than 1,100 col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties across the nation—and among the first in the Boston area—that have taken this impor­tant step to pro­mote the health of uni­ver­sity campuses.”

In December, North­eastern con­vened a 10-​​member com­mittee to explore the pos­si­bility of imple­menting a smoke-​​free campus policy. Since then, the group hosted two cam­puswide town-​​hall meet­ings to solicit feed­back and engage the North­eastern com­mu­nity in dia­logue about the issue. The com­mittee also sought input through informal sur­veys and meet­ings and received hun­dreds of com­ments through a ded­i­cated web­site, social media, and email—all designed to weigh the pros, cons, and fea­si­bility of its ulti­mate recommendations.

Fulmer said feed­back from stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff; campus rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the around the nation; and experts at the local, state, and fed­eral levels have helped shape the committee’s ulti­mate rec­om­men­da­tion to adopt a smoke-​​free policy.

“Feed­back from the North­eastern com­mu­nity was extra­or­di­narily helpful and impor­tant,” Fulmer said, noting that the com­mittee kept track of every com­ment. “We even heard from par­ents near and far who thanked us for looking into the issue.”

One of the most promi­nent issues raised during the public meet­ings was the avail­ability of smoking ces­sa­tion resources. Madeleine Estabrook, asso­ciate vice pres­i­dent for stu­dent affairs and a member of the com­mittee, noted that stu­dents have access to many smoking ces­sa­tion resources through a new, evidence-​​based pro­gram called Ready to Quit! and through Uni­ver­sity Health and Coun­seling Ser­vices and the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Stu­dent Health Plan. Coun­seling, nico­tine replace­ment therapy, and ces­sa­tion resources are also avail­able to benefits-​​eligible fac­ulty and staff through the Employee Assis­tance Pro­gram and their Blue Cross Blue Shield health­care plans.

Launched in Feb­ruary, the Ready to Quit! pro­gram takes a holistic approach to quit­ting smoking. Par­tic­i­pants receive encour­aging text mes­sages that sup­port a tobacco-​​free lifestyle and ben­efit from weekly follow-​​up phone calls and coaching meet­ings twice a month with a reg­is­tered nurse. They also have the oppor­tu­nity to meet with a behav­ioral health ther­a­pist for con­cerns about quitting.

“Ready to Quit! is a new way of looking at smoking ces­sa­tion and has clearly res­onated with our stu­dents,” Estabrook explained, noting the large number who have enrolled.

Quit­ting smoking is ulti­mately up to each indi­vidual, she said, but remarked that the university’s smoking ces­sa­tion resources and health and coun­seling per­sonnel have the poten­tial to play an impor­tant role in helping stu­dents make healthy choices. “First and fore­most, we are health edu­ca­tors,” she said. “The best we can do is edu­cate stu­dents and make oppor­tu­ni­ties avail­able to help them quit smoking.”

Along with Fulmer, Auer­bach, and Estabrook, the com­mittee com­prises fac­ulty member Richard Day­nard, Uni­ver­sity Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Law and chair of the Senate Agenda Com­mittee; stu­dents Nicole Bourque, pres­i­dent of the Health Dis­par­i­ties Stu­dent Col­lab­o­ra­tive, Summer Nagy, sen­ator of the Stu­dent Gov­ern­ment Asso­ci­a­tion, and Katie Zheng, pres­i­dent of Northeastern’s chapter of the Stu­dent National Phar­ma­ceu­tical Asso­ci­a­tion; and staff mem­bers Nanette Smith Cal­lihan, asso­ciate vice pres­i­dent of human resources oper­a­tions and total com­pen­sa­tion, Nancy May, vice pres­i­dent of facil­i­ties, and Elmer Freeman, director of the Center for Com­mu­nity Health Edu­ca­tion Research and Service.

Following is a sample of media coverage in which the announcement has appeared:

Northeastern U. Goes Smoke-Free – Inside And Out
WBUR (May 14)

Northeastern University announces plans to adopt a smoke-free policy for fall 2013 (May 13)

Northeastern University says it’s readying to butt out
Metro (May 14)

Northeastern To Go Smoke-Free
Boston Magazine (May 15)

Northeastern Campus to Go ‘Smoke Free’ with New Smoking Ban
Fenway-Kenmore Patch (May 15)