KINGSTON, R.I. -- March 29, 2001 -- The University of Rhode Island, the R.I. Department of Health, and the New England Division of the American Cancer Society have teamed-up to launch a Smokefree initiative at the University. The campaign expands on a new policy announced in December that prohibits smoking in all residence halls as of June 1, 2001, complements the policy put into place in July 1993 that prohibits smoking in all academic and office buildings, and takes aggressive steps to help students, faculty, and staff kick the habit.
The new initiative and smoke free policy were announced today by URI President Robert L. Carothers with R.I. Department of Health Director Dr. Patricia A. Nolan.
"The changes that we introduce here today may be the first step towards helping smokers quit smoking or discouraging new ones from starting," said Carothers. "In the end, we want our students to graduate from the University of Rhode Island with fond memories, and not with a terrible habit that may follow them throughout their lives."
The URI Smokefree initiative, with the motto Breathe Easy
We're going Smokefree, is a coordinated effort that involves policy changes, smoking cessation assistance and outreach, and aggressive awareness and prevention programs. One of the first events planned to launch the effort is a free smoke-free bowling night at Old Mountain Lanes in Wakefield at 10 p.m. on March 29. A poetry slam, and other events for the spring and fall semesters are also being planned. The University's website at www.uri.edu/smokefree also provides a one-stop resource for those seeking to breathe a bit easier.
"Today, URI joins a growing list of universities that promote safer and healthier learning communities," said Dr. Patricia A. Nolan, director of the R.I. Department of Health. "Research shows that these policies work. They reduce student smoking, eliminate the exposure of non-smokers to harmful secondhand smoke, and prevent fires. The tobacco industry spends $25 million each year through advertising, merchandise give aways and other promotional efforts to encourage smoking including efforts among college-aged Rhode Islanders. The University is stepping up to the plate here to oppose these industry efforts with its new policies and promotion of its valuable smoking cessation resources," she added.
Pharmacy Professor Paul Larrat, a volunteer with the New England Division of the American Cancer Society; Chad Henderson, director of the University's Health Services; and Michael Jordan, URI Student Senate president also participated in the announcement.
The R.I. Department of Health and the American Cancer Society are co-sponsoring the initiative with media outreach, volunteer support, outreach staff training and materials. In addition, the University's Cancer Prevention Research Center is providing access to its successful computer-based smoking cessation program.
In addition to the policy prohibiting smoking in the University's residence halls that was announced in December, the initiative sets out a new policy that will also prohibit the sale and distribution of tobacco products on campus and the advertisement of tobacco products in any University-sponsored publication. (The student newspaper, The Good 5 Cent Cigar is not a University publication.) Currently such products are sold in the University's convenience store located in the Memorial Union and tobacco companies participating in student events or sponsoring contests may distribute free product samples. The new policy will prohibit such activities. However, the policy does not prohibit smoking outside of buildings or on the campus grounds. The policy goes into effect on June 1, 2001.
While the student newspaper, The Good 5-Cent Cigar, is not a University publication, the administration has encouraged the editorial board of the newspaper to consider refusing to advertise tobacco products or accept any tobacco industry advertising (such as the current Philip Morris image campaign).
Recent studies have shown that while national college smoking rates are now at 28 percent, smoking among college students rose by more than 25 percent in the 1990s. In Rhode Island alone, smoking among 18-24 year olds increased almost 50 percent (from 21 to 30 percent) between 1988 and 1998. Among other things, experts have cited the special marketing efforts used by tobacco companies to attract college students as contributing to the increase. The University's new policies will hamper the efforts of companies to reach URI students directly.
A Harvard School of Public Health study released earlier this month indicates that the single most effective policy shift prohibiting smoking in the University residence halls holds the most promise for keeping students who arrive on campus as non-smokers, smoke free. The study found that these students are 40 percent less likely to start smoking if they live in a smoke-free residence.
The study found that for students who were not regular smokers before age 19, cigarette use was significantly lower for those living in a smoke-free residential environment than for those living in unrestricted housing. Housing type made no difference in cigarette use by those who smoked regularly before age 19.
"The non-smoking policy in the University's residence halls sends a clear message that we want to provide our students with a living environment that encourages healthy lifestyle choices throughout their college years and beyond," said Chip Yensan, director of residential life.
Yensan also pointed to the potential for fire from the careless use of cigarettes, citing the general incidence of fires that occur due to use of smoking materials in residential structures.
According to the American Cancer Society, smoke free campuses are becoming more popular as students and parents have become aware of the dangers of exposure to second-hand smoke and the increased risk of fire in settings where smoking is permitted.
Smoking cessation assistance and outreach
The most striking component of the University's Smokefree initiative is a well-coordinated expansion of outreach and treatment efforts being planned now to be fully launched in September.
Through a targeted media campaign including ads, banners, posters, buttons and other materials, the use of a well-promoted internet resource site, www.uri.edu/smokefree, individual peer counseling, and special events, the University will direct students and others to expanded resources offered through the University's Health Services department.
While the recent Harvard study found that nationally, of the colleges that offered smoking cessation programs to students, only 31 percent reported having individualized counselingwhich is considered critical to helping smokers quit. Through the new URI initiative, the Health Services department is working in collaboration with the University's Cancer Prevention Research Center (CPRC) to provide University community members with access to their exclusive stage-based smoking cessation program. This program was developed by the CPRC and has been used successfully worldwide.
Awareness and prevention programs
In addition to the media campaign efforts and special events that are being planned, trained teams of staff and students will meet with various groups and individuals to promote the effort and direct students and others toward the resources available. There are more than 100 peer-training students from the University's Speakeasy program, and other students from the pharmacy, nursing and psychology programs who will be involved in smoke free educational efforts. These students will also work at awareness booths at various URI events and at the Memorial Union during the lunch hour.
The University's primary awareness and prevention program goals are to:
Clarify student's perceptions about the reality of peer smoking. Recent studies have shown that student perception of peer smoking is higher than the actual rate.
Decrease the rate of students starting to smoke during college. Studies have shown that 30 percent of smokers who leave college started to smoke during college. It is estimated that at URI approximately 500-700 students in the current matriculating classes will become will become new, regular, addicted smokers by the time they graduate.
Increase the awareness of the risks of casual social smoking
Demonstrate that social smoking is dangerous and addictive.
Increase the accessibility and availability of smoking cessation programs
New programs are now available through Health Services.
Encourage community members who are thinking of quitting to try these programs and encourage those who aren't thinking about quitting to consider it. The stage-based smoking cessation program developed by the University's Cancer Prevention Research Center provides directed interventions to smokers at all stages of change. The method has been demonstrated to be appropriate and effective with young adults, among others.
For Information: Linda A. Acciardo, 401-874-2116, Jhodi Redlich, 401-874-4500