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Campus to go smoke-free in 2011

U-M will "kick the habit" and snuff out smoking on campus as of July 1, 2011, to help reduce the risks of second-hand smoke and ensure a healthier environment for faculty, staff and students, leaders announced last week.

Tobacco Facts

• Secondhand smoke is responsible for an estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths among U.S. nonsmokers each year.
• Tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemical agents, including more than 60 substances that are known to cause cancer.
• The risk of developing smoking-related cancers, as well as noncancerous diseases, increases with total lifetime exposure to cigarette smoke.
• Smokers who quit reap major and immediate health benefits.
(Source: National Cancer Institute)

The university will implement a new smoke-free policy that will affect all grounds and buildings on the three U-M campuses, and follows a series of university steps to curb smoking on campus.

"A healthier, smoke-free physical environment will only enhance the intellectual vigor of our campuses," says President Mary Sue Coleman. "Our decision to become a smoke-free campus aligns perfectly with the goals of MHealthy to improve the health of our community.

"We will make this change gradually, with input from the campus community on how best to put our new policy into practice."

In an effort to assist and encourage smokers to kick the habit, U-M will offer faculty and staff free behavioral sessions and selected over-the-counter smoking-cessation products, along with co-pay reductions for prescription tobacco cessation medicines. The University Health Service will offer behavioral counseling and discounts on smoking-cessation aids for students. The free and discounted programs will roll out in the fall while an implementation plan for the smoke-free campus is being developed.

More information about the initiative can be found at

Coleman has appointed Kenneth Warner, dean of the School of Public Health, and Dr. Robert Winfield, chief health officer for U-M and director of the University Health Service, to co-chair a Smoke Free University Steering Committee to develop a plan. Specifically, the committee is charged with:
• Seeking input from students, staff and faculty through dialogue and surveys.
• Identifying successful practices at other institutions and organizations that have become smoke free.
• Creating recommendations on implementation of a smoke-free campus, including the pros and cons of each.
• Communicating with the university community once the plan is finalized.

Subcommittees are being formed to consider issues related to communications, student life, human resources, grounds and facilities, and the impact on university visitors. Participants will represent the three campuses and will include local community members, though each campus will implement its own plan. Committees also will include members who are smokers, ex-smokers and non-smokers.

According to self-reported insurance data, approximately 14 percent of U-M's more than 36,000 employees are smokers. In a 2006 survey, approximately 16 percent of U-M students said they smoked one or more cigarettes a month.

"The goal of this work is clear and important, and we intend to plan in a thoughtful way," Warner says. "Our steering committee and subcommittees will be asked to consider the impact on faculty, staff, students, visitors and the local communities of all U-M's campuses. It'll be a transparent process and will take time to consider numerous issues. But the outcome is worthwhile and has real value for the public health of our community."

Winfield says the university will be breaking new ground in public health in Michigan, and emphasized the importance of considering the surrounding community. "We are intent upon trying to be respectful of individuals who choose to smoke, and avoiding a negative impact on businesses and neighbors bordering the U-M campus," he says. "The university will reach out to the surrounding community as the committees are formed."

Creation of an entirely smoke-free environment will culminate years of work toward decreasing smoking and its effects on the U-M campus.

In 1987 U-M first adopted a universitywide ban on smoking in buildings (except several designated residence halls) and university vehicles. In 1998 the Health System prohibited smoking on the grounds and in public spaces. In 2003 the Residence Hall Association eliminated smoking from all residence halls.

Winfield says studies indicate a 20- to 30-percent increase in the risk of lung cancer from secondhand smoke exposure associated with living with a smoker. Workplace restrictions on smoking have been found to be effective in reducing smoke exposure, he says.

When the university completes the implementation in 2011, it will join the University of California at San Francisco, Indiana University System (nine campuses), and the University of Iowa as smoke-free campuses. More than 260 colleges and universities nationwide have implemented such policies.

There's a strong business case for encouraging employees to quit smoking. Male smokers miss 3.9 more days of work per year than non-smoking males, and female smokers miss an additional 2.1 days of work per year. A 1996 study by Warner and colleagues also found that workplace smoking-cessation programs reduce health care costs, absenteeism costs, on-the-job productivity losses and life insurance costs.

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