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Updated 10:00 AM November 9, 2009
 

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Sessions planned on shift to smoke-free university

Members of the campus community are encouraged to attend one of two upcoming informational meetings about the university plan for a smoke-free campus.

The meetings are 4:30-6 p.m. Thursday in Palmer Commons Forum Hall, and 5-6:30 p.m. Nov. 19 in Stamps Auditorium on North Campus.

President Mary Sue Coleman announced in April the plan for U-M to be an entirely smoke-free university July 1, 2011. On that date, university grounds and buildings on all three campuses will be designated as non-smoking areas.

When announcing the Smoke-Free University Initiative, Coleman said the change would take place gradually, allowing plenty of time for input from smokers and non-smokers. The two sessions represent the first in a comprehensive plan to share information and gather feedback from students, faculty, staff and the local community.

"Implementing a policy like this involves a lot of dimensions," says Kenneth Warner, dean of the School of Public Health and co-chair of the Smoke Free University Steering Committee. "Much remains unresolved at this point regarding precisely how it will be implemented. Thus, we are interested in suggestions from the community as to how they believe the policy should be developed."

Dr. Robert Winfield, chief health officer and director of the University Health Service (UHS), co-chairs the committee.

During each session, Warner will share goals for the implementation, including details of what led to the decision and the first steps that have been taken, which include formation of subcommittees to address communications, student life, human resources, grounds and facilities, and the impact on U-M visitors.

"Our hope is to create greater understanding of the purpose of the policy — to promote a healthy Michigan community, one of the president's central goals — and to be as respectful as possible about the rights, interests and concerns of smokers."

To that end, the various committees include faculty, staff and students from all campuses, members the local community and smoking-cessation experts. Within the groups are smokers, ex-smokers and those who never have smoked.

A significant part of the implementation plan includes helping smokers who wish to kick the habit. A new program called the MHealthy Tobacco Independence Program (MTIP) will be created though the MHealthy initiative to help faculty and staff quit, emphasizing services already offered through the U-M Health System. MTIP will include free behavioral counseling and increased access to anti-smoking products.

A program with similar features will be available to students through UHS.

The university has been moving toward a smoke-free campus for many years, first banning smoking in buildings (other than designated residence halls) and university vehicles in 1987. The U-M Health System became smoke free in 1998 and the Residence Halls Association eliminated smoking in the remaining residence halls in 2003.

Across the nation, 260 campuses have implemented similar policies. In Michigan, a number of colleges and universities have restricted-smoking policies, and four have policies against lighting up indoors and out: Delta College, Grand Rapids Community College, Great Lakes Christian College and Hope College, according to July 2009 data from the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation.

Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP at www.hr.umich.edu/smokefree/informationsessions.html.

Members of the community who wish to have questions answered during one of the sessions are encouraged to pose them ahead of time by e-mailing smokefreeuniversity@umich.edu.

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