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Northeastern to explore smoke-free campus

Northeastern has convened a committee comprised of students, faculty and staff to explore the possibility of implementing a smoke-free campus policy.

“Northeastern is committed to the health and well-being of society,” said Terry Fulmer, dean of the Bouvé College of Health Sciences and co-chair of the smoke-free campus initiative committee. “Anything that can be done that will discourage people from smoking is a good idea.”

Tobacco use, she explained, is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 443,000 people die each year from smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke.

Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun and the university’s Senior Leadership Team appointed Fulmer to chair the committee. In an email to the university community on Tuesday afternoon, she said, “While all buildings on Northeastern’s campus are currently smoke and tobacco free, we believe it is a good time to explore the potential for a campus-wide policy.”

At least 825 colleges and universities throughout the nation have already enacted smoke-free campus policies, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, an educational nonprofit organization based in Berkeley, Calif.

In September, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched the Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative at the University of Michigan, during which the department’s assistant secretary for health proclaimed, “Campus policies…can protect health and support tobacco-free living for some 20 million students who are enrolled in institutes of higher learning.”

John Auerbach, the director of the Institute on Urban Health Research in Bouvé and co-chair of the smoke-free campus initiative committee, plans to meet with the director of Michigan’s smoke-free campus program in an effort to shape Northeastern’s potential smoke-free policy.

“We want to identify at least half a dozen colleges and universities that share the characteristics of Northeastern and discuss their experience with a smoke-free campus,” said Auerbach, who also holds an appointment as a Distinguished Professor of Practice in Bouvé’s Department of Health Sciences.

Over the next several months, the committee will seek input from members of the university community through a series of surveys, meetings and forums designed to inform its ultimate recommendations.

Fulmer noted that feedback from students, faculty and staff would be critical to the initiative’s success. “When you have an idea about something that impacts the community, you want to hear the voices of that community,” she said. “We’re very interested in what stakeholders think about this issue.”

Other members of the committee comprise faculty member Richard Daynard, University Distinguished Professor of Law and chair of the Senate Agenda Committee; students Nicole Bourque and Katie Zheng, president of Student National Pharmaceutical Association; and staff members Madeline Estabrook, director of Student Health Services, Nancy May, vice president of facilities, and Elmer Freeman, director of urban health programs in Bouvé and executive director of the Center for Community Health Education Research and Service, a community-based organization created to promote the development of academic community health centers.