University prepares smoking cessation resources for students and faculty

As the upcoming smoking ban rests on smokers’ minds, the University prepares to release its resource plans to help those who want to quit smoking. The ban will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

According to the Illinois Tobacco Survey conducted in late April 2012, 27 percent of students and 31 percent of faculty want to quit smoking. McKinley Health Center will offer programs geared toward students, while the UI Wellness Center will focus on helping faculty.

“We are very aware that there are people who don’t want to quit smoking, but they want to comply with the rules,” said Michele Guerra, director of UI Wellness Center. “We want to help them be able to get through their day without feeling anxiety because they cannot nourish their craving. We are trying to offer a menu of services to cater to everyone.”

Both offices are waiting on final approval from the chancellor’s office on official cessation programs, Guerra said. However, both centers have begun to roll out programs to aid smokers before the ban is in place.

“It’s very personal, and different people quit in different ways, so we want to steer people in the right way,” Guerra said. “For example, with behavior, some may smoke to help them relieve stress. So, we look into stress management.”

Gabriella Booker, freshman in LAS, never considered quitting smoking until she heard news of the ban.

“I’m excited for the ban because I need to quit. I feel that it would benefit me and others in the long run,” Booker said. “It’ll be much easier than to have to constantly go off campus just to find a place to smoke.”

But Booker said she does not plan to use the resources at McKinley.

“When I quit, I would just cut off on my own,” Booker said. “I wouldn’t want resources, but it’s interesting to know that they are offering them.”

Several group cessation sessions are available, and McKinley offers one-on-one counseling with trained facilitator Beth Frasca. One of the most publicized options is the Illinois Tobacco Quitline, a telephone counseling program with nicotine replacement therapy. Sessions can be scheduled to a person’s convenience. The quitline is offered in over 200 languages, which Guerra said is great for the University’s diverse demographic.

Almost 69 percent of students voted to eliminate smoking on campus in a November 2011 referendum. For those who voted against the ban, about 30 percent of student smokers (9 percent of total number of students who voted) and about 33 percent of employee smokers (almost 7 percent of total number of employees who voted), said they are less likely to stay at the University once the ban is set in place.

Keith Berman, junior in LAS, does not plan to quit smoking once the ban is passed and finds the ban to be a “slight abuse of power.”

“I don’t think it’ll make a big change in my smoking habits because I’m not sure how they are going to enforce it. I also live right near the edge of campus, so I could always just walk across the street,” he said. “While I understand smoking regulations in dorms and buildings for safety purposes, I don’t necessarily agree with the ban.”

The University received a $50,000 “We Choose Health” grant, which is a part of a multi-year effort to encourage and support tobacco prevention in Illinois communities. The Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department organized the Champaign County coalition that applied for the grant.

Grant money was used toward implementing the policy. This included hiring Sarah Sommer, a graduate assistant at the Wellness Center, as a smoke-free campus assistant to provide administrative and organizational support to create a smoke-free campus over the next year.

According to the recommendation report from the Smoke-Free Ad Hoc Committee, international students will receive fair warning of the smoke-free policy by recruiters in their home countries. After arriving on campus, groups such as the Peer Health Advocates, Student Health Services as well as University Housing and Dining Services will assist International Student and Scholar Services in bringing awareness to programs that may provide free nicotine patches, gum and counseling sessions.

As of July 2013, 1,178 campuses nationwide have smoke-free campuses, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. These campuses may have policies that have been enacted but are not yet in effect. Including the University, the state of Illinois currently has 14 smoke-free campuses, 8 of which are completely tobacco-free.

Megan can be reached at [email protected]