ANN ARBOR (WWJ/AP) – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wants college campuses nationwide to take steps to eliminate tobacco use.
Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health at the department, is expected at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on Wednesday to discuss the Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative. The aim is to expand tobacco-free policies by universities, colleges, junior colleges and others.
“We are witnessing a public health evolution to make smoking history and protect people from tobacco dependence so that they have a fighting chance to enjoy their full potential for health,” Koh said in a release.
The University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor adopted a ban on smoking outdoors in 2011, making good on previous plans. The university earlier had banned smoking inside its buildings since 1987, and the university’s health system prohibited smoking in and around its facilities since 1999.
Tobacco-free campuses are part of a national Tobacco Control Strategic Action Plan from the Department of Health and Human Services.
“Twenty million students, about a third of all young adults in this country, are enrolled in higher education. Through their campus policies, colleges and universities have a unique opportunity to influence a student’s daily life. The need for action is urgent, since the number of smokers who started smoking after age 18 increased from 600,000 in 2002 to 1 million in 2010,” Clifford Douglas, director of the University of Michigan Tobacco Research Network said in a release.
“A tobacco-free policy can help reduce asthma attacks and respiratory infections, lower rates of smoking among students and employees, increase class attendance, lower maintenance and cleaning costs, reduce the risk of fires, reduce insurance rates, and beautify a campus,” he said.
Nearly 17 percent of all higher-education institutions now have tobacco-free or smoke-free policies. U-M was not the first to go smoke-free but the university is recognized for its status as a major institution with a comprehensive plan that sought input from across the community.
U-M’s chief health officer, Dr. Robert Winfield, noted that central to becoming smoke free at Michigan was a commitment to be respectful to smokers, while encouraging established smokers to quit.
“The use of a robust cessation program, along with extensive marketing was central to the success of the effort. Changing the values of the community regarding tobacco use is a commitment that will become the norm over the coming years,” Winfield said, adding that there has been a dramatic reduction in smoking across all of U-M campuses.
“The transition to smoke free went very smoothly and has overall been a positive experience,” he said.
A discussion of the Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative will be held at 3 p.m. on Sept. 12 in Ann Arbor. The event will be streamed live at www.TFCCI.org.
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