BROOKINGS – South Dakota State University officially will soon become a tobacco-free campus following approval of a proposal to ban all tobacco products on campus grounds. The ban will take effect at the start of the next semester, on Jan. 2, 2018.
The initiative to ban use of all tobacco products on SDSU property was started by SDSU Health, a coalition of deans, administrators and staff dedicated to seeking the betterment of faculty, staff and students and promoting a healthier environment with a greater health awareness. The ban includes cigarettes, e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco and other forms of smokeless tobacco, and the prohibition applies to members of the public visiting campus.
As is, campus policy had been more liberal, only prohibiting smoking inside campus buildings or within 20 feet of a campus building. This made SDSU more lenient than other South Dakota universities, all of which had stricter policies in place.
After having a 30-day period for public comment, which allowed individuals to let administrators know through email their thoughts on the policy, it was announced on Oct. 17 by SDSU President Barry Dunn via a campus-wide email that the tobacco-free proposal had been approved.
Doug Wermedal, associate vice president for student affairs and a member of SDSU Health, was happy with the results of SDSU Health’s efforts.
“Myself and my colleagues on SDSU Health view this as a tremendous step forward and are very pleased that university leadership has seen fit to take this stand,” Wermedal said.
For him and his SDSU Health peers, this means a healthier campus, a student population that’s better prepared for the typical tobacco-free work environment and a campus that’s better educated about tobacco use.
Disciplinary action hasn’t been a goal of the initiative, however; the primary goal has been education on the risks of tobacco use in all forms.
As such, if someone is caught using tobacco, they’ll be provided with material to help encourage and support quitting tobacco use, as well as counseling and other resources. After the person receives those materials, any further disciplinary action is up to a supervising figure. For students, that could be residence hall staff or the dean of students, and for staff members, their supervisor.
Educating tobacco users shouldn’t be an issue for the university after SDSU received an $18,341 grant from the CVS Health Foundation, the Truth Initiative and the American Cancer Society.
That $18,000 will go toward wages for hiring two marketing and design students to create educational materials, promote tobacco-quitting services and create a social media marketing plan; cover travel expenses for two Wellness Center professionals who will receive training to become tobacco treatment specialists; supplies such as cessation support kits; and educational materials such as signage that states SDSU is tobacco free.
Work on preparing for the implementation of tobacco-free campus policy has already begun, with two Wellness Center employees receiving tobacco-cessation counseling training at the Mayo Clinic. Mariah Weber and Rita Parsley received their certifications as tobacco-cessation counselors last week after taking the one-week, 40-hour training program.
“Our plan would be if a student would be documented as using tobacco, they would automatically get this letter that contains the contact information for the tobacco cessation counselors and that they would be matched up with some educational services to give them the support to quit,” Wermedal said.
Or, if in-person counseling isn’t the preferred option, the tobacco user would be directed to the South Dakota QuitLine (1-866-737-8487).
Signage informing people of the university’s status as a tobacco-free campus will be installed on Jan. 2 along the campus perimeter and key high-traffic areas. At the same time, all smokers’ outdoor cigarette receptacles will be removed.
Until then, university leaders are doing their best to make sure everyone knows about the coming changes, posting a new sign each week in the residence halls and distributing letters with the tobacco-cessation counselors’ contact information to anyone on campus who has been documented as a tobacco user.
This won’t be the last health issue that SDSU Health tries to educate people about, either. Launched earlier this month, the group began working to educate students about the importance of sleep in their physical health and overall well-being.
Contact Eric Sandbulte at [email protected]