By: Heather Zesiger
Emory has had a tobacco-free policy since 2012. Details can be found online at tobaccofree.emory.edu. Policy is just one strategy in advancing community health, alongside equity, inclusion, education, empowerment, and social support. Anyone who has recently passed by the Woodruff Library or Bowden Hall or the Michael C. Carlos Museum could say our tobacco-free policy needs a reboot. Faith in the original intent that the policy be enforced by voluntary community participation is waning. Anonymous reports of tobacco violations are submitted online almost daily. Faculty complain that they have tried to respectfully confront tobacco users to no avail. When one strategy proves ineffective, we need to try something else.
Enter the Tobacco Free Emory Quit Team. This new group of student employees monitors areas of campus known for violations and engages with (would-be) tobacco users to remind them of the policy, educate them about cessation resources available, and, in extreme cases, asks for IDs and report violations to the Office of Student Conduct, Deans of Schools, or Human Resources (depending on whether the tobacco user is a student or employee).
Hopefully this group is temporary. They are the reboot; they are simply doing (for pay) what ALL of us are called upon to do in the policy as members of a community that care about each other. If someone were about to get hit by a car, you would pull that person out of the way, right? If a fellow student were about to cheat, you would try to talk him/her/zir out of it, right? If your friend is too drunk to be going home with anyone consensually, you would intervene, right? What makes these situations different from asking someone to walk off campus when they want to use tobacco?
Nicotine is incredibly addictive. Quitting takes practice. Support requires empathy. The policy doesn’t say “you can’t smoke.” It says “you can’t smoke here”. Here is where we live, work, play, learn, and love. To paraphrase the World Health Organization, here is where we create health. Here is not a place for tobacco.
If you or a student you care about need help quitting, check out http://studenthealth.emory.edu/hp/alcohol_and_other_drugs/tobacco_cessation.html
To refer staff and faculty to cessation services, visit http://fsap.emory.edu/health/healthresources/tobacco.html
Heather Zesiger, MPH, MCHES is the director of the office of health promotion in Emory’s Division of Campus Life. She envisions an Emory in which every student will flourish on a healthy campus.