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Recommendations ahead on smoke-free campus initiative

A committee charged with exploring a smoke-free campus policy hosted a town-hall meeting Tuesday night to field questions from the Northeastern community and provide updates on issues that have yielded significant feedback. The committee is expected to make final recommendations later this spring.

In December, the university announced it had convened a committee comprised of students, faculty, and staff to explore the possibility of implementing a smoke-free policy. The 10-member committee is co-chaired by Terry Fulmer, dean of the Bouvé College of Health Sciences, and John Auerbach, director of the Institute on Urban Health Research and Distinguished Professor of Practice in Bouvé’s Department of Health Sciences.

Tuesday’s open forum, held in West Village F, marked the second time this semester the committee has held a public event to solicit feedback. Several hundred comments have also been gathered through a dedicated website and via email; the committee is also seeking feedback from the 1,100 campuses nationwide that have already implemented some form of a smoke-free policy. The Faculty Senate discussed the topic at a meeting last month.

“One of the most important things we as a committee wanted to do was to make this process very inclusive and transparent,” Auerbach said.

The first forum featured a range of opinions from the student-dominated audience. Tuesday’s town-hall meeting provided a similar opportunity for questions and comments, and the audience also listened to updates on two issues in particular that have been featured prominently in feedback thus far: smoking cessation resources on campus and adherence to a potential smoke-free policy.

Madeleine Estabrook, director of student health services, noted that students have access to many smoking cessation resources through University Health and Counseling Services and the Northeastern University Student Health Plan. She also highlighted a new, evidence-based program launched in February called Ready to Quit!.

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, committee members explained. Including smoking cessation in the university’s upcoming Healthy You programming has also been discussed.

Later in the forum, Auerbach introduced three students—Mikaela Elia, Leah Webster, and Jaimini Patel—health sciences majors whose senior capstone projects focus on the smoke-free campus initiative.

Health sciences major Leah Webster discussed trends related to social media feedback as part of the smoke-free campus initiative. She is working on this project for her senior capstone.

Elia, for her part, has analyzed compliance-based methods at several other colleges and found that successful programs generally have four common components: communication, education, signage, and a positive reinforcement model. She noted the University of Kentucky’s “Three-T” model—tell, treat, and train—which has utilized a mix of social media, scripted messages on how to approach people about the policy, a research fair, and clever marketing.

During the public response period, student representatives from the Health Disparities Student Collaborative and the Resident Student Association read statements in support of a smoke-free policy. Several other students asked questions on a range of topics; one asked about current smoking policy signage across campus, and another asked which areas of campus are public ways and would be exempt from a potential ban.

In closing remarks, Auerbach said the committee would continue its discussions over the next 30 days and then draft a report with final recommendations on a potential smoke-free campus policy, which is expected to be released later this semester. The Northeastern community can weigh in by visiting the smoke-free initiative website, tweeting with #NUsmokefree, posting comments to the initiative’s Facebook page, and by emailing smokefreeinitiative@neu.edu.