Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

U-M to host event at which HHS, education leaders will call for tobacco free campuses

More than a year after U-M became smoke free, the Ann Arbor campus will host an event during which leaders from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will call upon all institutions of higher learning to adopt similar policies and make their campuses tobacco free.

 

Dr. Howard K. Koh, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will be at the School of Public Health to announce a national initiative to eliminate tobacco use on college campuses.

Koh will be joined by President Mary Sue Coleman and tobacco policy experts and educational leaders from the across the country. They will present the Tobacco-Free College Campus Initiative (TFCCI) at 3 p.m. Sept. 12 at SPH. SPH Dean Martin Philbert and Chief Health Officer Dr. Robert Winfield also will participate in the event, which will be streamed live at TFCCI.org.

"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. "Implementing this initiative will bring us closer to a world where tobacco-related illness is uncommon and lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in the country, is rare. The work starts now — join us in the movement to create tobacco-free campuses for all."

Tobacco-free campuses are part of a national Tobacco Control Strategic Action Plan put forth by HHS. The TFCCI involves collaboration between HHS and public health and academic leaders from across the United States. Clifford Douglas, director of the U-M Tobacco Research Network and a lecturer in tobacco and public health policy at SPH, serves as an adviser on tobacco-control policy to Koh, and is a leader of the TFCCI.

The initiative will promote the expansion of tobacco-free policies by universities, colleges, junior colleges and other institutions of higher learning across the nation.

"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," Douglas said.

"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. 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."

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.

Coleman announced in April 2009 that campuses in Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn would go smoke-free July 1, 2011. The time frame allowed members of several subcommittees the opportunity to gather input and make recommendations for how the policy would be implemented, and each campus to develop its own plan.

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 U-M campuses.

"The transition to smoke free went very smoothly and has overall been a positive experience."

The event will include Koh's announcement, followed by remarks from Coleman and Philbert. A panel discussion including Winfield, Jennifer Haubenreiser, president, American College Health Association; Paula Staight, director of health promotion at the University of Oregon; Ty Patterson, executive director, National Center for Tobacco Policy; and Jonathan Allen, a student at Grambling State University, will follow.

The TFCCI website, hosted by the U-M Tobacco Research Network in collaboration with other academic institutions and public health organizations from across the United States, will become a one-stop location to provide the tools necessary for colleges, universities, community colleges and others to work toward tobacco-free campuses. It will include toolkits, fact sheets, news updates, state-specific information and lists, technical assistance contacts, an interactive feature, and links to external resources.