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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.