OSU looks at tobacco-free policy on Corvallis campus

smoke free sign

OSU’s Corvallis campus became smoke free in 2012. (photo by Theresa Hogue)

In 2012, Oregon State University implemented a smoke-free policy that prohibited smoking anywhere on the Corvallis campus. At that time, the policy included combustible tobacco products only. Campus administrators wanted to see if the campus would support the change, and in 2013 an evaluation of the campus community showed support was strong and widespread.

Now, Oregon State is looking at expanding the policy to include smokeless products such as snus, snuff and chew as well as cigarettes and other combustible products that are already included in the policy. Two of the leaders of this effort are Marion Ceraso and Marc Braverman, both Extension Specialists in Family & Community Health and faculty in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

Ceraso and Braverman are working with the Oregon State University Tobacco Policy Task Force, which is made up of personnel from Student Health Services, ASOSU, OSU Extension, University Housing and Dining Services, Human Resources, Office of Student Life, Office of Corvallis Community Relations, International Services, INTO OSU, and the Benton County Health Department.  The Task Force is committed to engaging the campus community in discussion so that they can develop a tobacco policy that enjoys broad support from across OSU.

The proposed policy expansion is in line with similar policies at campuses across the country.  “There are currently over 2,100 campuses that are 100 percent smoke-free and the overwhelming majority of those, 84 percent, are also fully tobacco-free,” Ceraso said. University of Oregon is currently 100 percent tobacco-free, as are all public four-year campuses in California.

Oregon recently passed legislation making it illegal to sell tobacco to those under age 21, making it an important time for Oregon State to consider going tobacco-free. Finally, Oregon State received a small grant from the American Cancer Society last year to examine their current policy and explore whether there might be campus support for this change.

“The grant enables us to sponsor events for the campus community such as Friday’s lunchtime forum,” Braverman said. “So we think the time is right to take a fresh look at our campus tobacco policy.”

The Friday forum takes place March 9, noon - 1 p.m., in MU 213. It’s open to students, staff and faculty and is aimed at getting a sense of the campus climate around this issue.

“Campuses across the U.S., as well as other parts of the world, have implemented complete tobacco-free policies because of their commitment to maintaining a healthy environment in their communities,” Braverman said. “Since tobacco, in all its forms, is a recognized carcinogen, leads to multiple other health problems and is highly addictive, it is incompatible with a commitment to health.”

“University tobacco-free policies have been found to promote social norms, especially for students, that discourage tobacco use in any form,” Braverman said.

“And public health organizations strongly recommend that because smokeless tobacco products carry very significant health risks, their regulation should be tightly integrated into tobacco control policies,” Ceraso noted.

One of the biggest issues surrounding the current smoke-free policy is enforcement. Oregon State doesn’t have the resources to constantly police renegade smokers. Additionally pushing smokers to the edges of campus creates a litter problem along the borders. These issues are common with many campuses with similar policies. Some campuses use ambassadors to approach policy violators and remind them of the rules. At Oregon State, the Tobacco Policy Task Force will explore various approaches for getting the word out about the policy and managing violations.

In the coming months, a survey of students, faculty and staff will be conducted to gather further input and gauge opinions of the campus community.

~ Theresa Hogue

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