Beginning August 1, 2014, LSU will implement a tobacco-free policy, in accordance with a recently passed Louisiana statute. Restricted tobacco products include cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, pipes, water pipes, all smokeless tobacco (chew, snuff, etc.), and all non-FDA approved nicotine products.
Gradual Policy Implementation over the Years
The Louisiana legislature, in 2007, passed the Smoke-free Air Act, which barred smoking inside restaurants, workplaces with two or more employees, and public buildings. In this same year, the prohibition against smoking inside Tiger Stadium was extended to include all areas inside the admittance gate and the ramps to the Pete Maravich Center.
In 2011, both the LSU Faculty Senate and Student Government passed resolutions to restrict smoking at least 25 feet from building entrances and exits and called for the campus to be either smoke-free or tobacco-free by fall 2012. Finally, in summer 2013, the Louisiana legislature passed the current law that stipulates, effective August 1, 2014, all state public college campuses must be either smoke-free or tobacco-free.
At the same time, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals began the implementation of “Well-Ahead,” a campaign aimed at improving the health and wellness of Louisiana citizens. This campaign designates “wellspots,” which are described as “places and spaces making choices and changes to make it easier for Louisiana citizens to live well.” Campus faculty, students, and administrators who participated in preparing the campus for compliance with the new legislation decided that the most forward-thinking approach would be to take a path toward a tobacco-free campus, thereby becoming a “wellspot.”
While the university policy eliminating tobacco on the entire campus is new, the NCAA has included tobacco on its list of disallowed substances for coaches and student athletes for decades. With its “if you spit, you sit” campaign in 2002, the organization made enforcement of the NCAA by-law regarding tobacco a priority. This zero-tolerance policy has led to a changed culture in student sports, most notably in baseball.
This latest change in policy regarding tobacco at LSU marks a similar evolution in campus culture. Over time, LSU’s policies regarding tobacco use on campus has gradually changed to reflect the growing body of evidence that points to the harmful effects of tobacco—not just to those who use the products, but also to those who are in close proximity to those users.
Students for a Tobacco-Free Campus
One student organization on campus advocating for a tobacco-free campus is Fresh Campus/Smoking Words. Derick Bercegeay, the president of the organization, and fellow officers Jasmine Green, Chelsea Swanson, and Kelsie Stampley are working to educate their fellow students regarding the dangers of using any tobacco products—not just cigarettes—and ways to kick the nicotine habit.
Both Swanson, a psychology major who is minoring in biology, and Stampley, a kinesiology major, anticipate careers in medicine—Swanson in psychiatry and Stampley in pediatrics—and their participation in Fresh Campus/Smoking Words is directly related to their concern for the health of others. Newly elected to serve during the 2014-2015 academic year, all of the organization’s officers are looking forward to working with other students to raise awareness of the damaging effects of tobacco use.
Smoking Words has been instrumental in establishing a tobacco-free policy on campus and in tracking tobacco-use trends and prevalence among students. For more information on how to become involved, visit the organization’s website www.lsu.edu/smokingwords and select the contact tab.
Help for Tobacco Users Who Want to Quit
Students can get help to stop using tobacco products through the LSU Student Health Center. The Student Health Center offers information, education, and cessation services to assist students as the university moves to a tobacco-free campus. Associate Director Julie Hupperich and Health Promotion Coordinator Susan Bareis are working on ways to make students’ adjustment as smooth and easy as possible.
Bareis, who joined the Wellness and Health Promotion staff at the Student Health Center in March 2014, has experience with policy implementation, having served at the University of Florida in a similar capacity while she was a graduate student there and with the Florida State Department of Health’s Tobacco-Free Florida program.
She understands how difficult it is to kick a nicotine addiction. “It can take seven or eight times before you’re finally able to quit,” she explained. “But studies show the most effective treatment for tobacco cessation is a combination of counseling (individual or group) and nicotine replacement therapy.” It can also be helpful to have someone—a counselor, a friend, or another smoker who is trying to quit, too—to help you through the process.
The health center’s coordinators and group sessions can provide that critical support. Through individual education and classes, participants learn to use some creative strategies to help work through their addiction, like putting their cigarettes in the trunk of the car so that they are harder to get or taking a different route to and from school or work if a particular location triggers the need for a smoke.
For tobacco cessation classes, contact the Office of Wellness and Health Promotion at 225-578-5718. The Student Health Center pharmacy also offers over-the-counter nicotine cessation products at a reduced cost to students, faculty, and staff.
“Instituting a tobacco-free policy at LSU further demonstrates our commitment to community,” Hupperich commented. “We, at the Student Health Center, look forward to supporting students as we make the transition to a healthier campus.”
Other resources available to students, faculty, and staff are listed here www.lsu.edu/tobaccofree.