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One puff away from a “smoke-free” campus

The haze of smoke will soon disappear as Missouri Western forges past other universities’ failed smoke-free policies.

Dr. Christopher Bond, Western’s tobacco implementation committee chair, said he is reviewing every step before the policy goes into affect July 1 to ensure all issues are worked out. He said all universities that implement a smoke-free policy are going to have issues.

“This is why we have a task force in place. We have a plan to deal with the ‘what if’s’ if someone abuses the policy,” Bond said. “We will know what to do if someone is hiding, and smoking behind the dumpsters like they do at Northwest Missouri State University.”

There are numerous universities throughout the state of Missouri that have implemented tobacco-free policies and even more are preparing to jump on board. Each university approaches the policy differently with enforcement regulations, some offering cessation courses and nicotine packages.

Dr. Robert Vartabedian, Western President, said he thinks the cessation courses Missouri Southern offers students, faculty, and staff are a positive aspect to consider. His main concerns about the policy when implemented are the two e’s: enforcement and education.

“Enforcing a policy like this can get complicated; I think most people approach it and say ‘Let’s see how it works out’,” Vartabedian said. “Education is a big one. Anytime you deal with an addiction substance, you need to help it go away.”

Missouri Southern has an eight week program in place for students to take online for tobacco cessation. “There are students who pass and fail the course,” Missouri Southern health center director Julie Stamps said. “Its success depends on how bad the individual wants to quit their addiction to tobacco products.”

The way in which the policy will be enforced is still unknown at this point. Bond said the enforcement committee will meet next week to look at ways to control this issue. Universities such as Northwest Missouri State enforce their policy voluntarily. They leave its students in charge of reporting the abuse of the policy on campus grounds.

“Nothing is written in stone. We will most likely do training such as was done with the Green Dot Program,” Bond said. “Students will most likely go through Student Affairs if constantly caught smoking.”

The University of Central Missouri and Western will have their policies go into effect by next school year with the same problems they must address. Jeff Murphy, UCM assistant director of university relations said at this time they don’t charge for nicotine replacement therapy, which includes patches, gum and lozenges. Western will go through the same process and will have to find a new method for paying for the cessation resources after grant money from the MO Foundation for Health (through Heartland) runs out.

“We are able to do this because we are part of a grant through CASE (Campus Community Coalitions Advocating Smoke Free Environments) from the Missouri Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse,” Murphy said. “If that grant goes away, we would have to consider a small charge for the nicotine replacement while we look for other grant funding.”

Bond has been working on smoke-free research for the past 12 years. He says he knows what works and what doesn’t. Western’s policy strategy is being used by universities such as the University of Missouri- Kansas City and universities in Nebraska and Washington State. Other universities have warned Bond, along with others, of the signs to look for when the policy goes into effect.

“You just can’t implement a policy overnight like other universities have done,” Bond said. “We’ve been warned about the loop-holes and how smoking areas are not effective.

Western’s leaders will meet within the next couple of weeks to discuss enforcement, education and ways to continue the cessation packages for students, faculty and staff.

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