GW unveils anti-smoking campaign

The University launched a campaign to offer resources and counseling to smokers looking to kick their habit, going against the national trend of colleges banning smoking on campus all together.

Rather than instituting a smoke-free policy, the University started the “Be a Quitter!” campaign, which offers a hotline to call for information on support services and a website with tips. Behavioral counseling programs will also provide tips on quitting, as well as how to decrease stress levels and deal with cravings.

The one-year personal coaching program will be offered at a reduced cost and can be covered by GW’s student health insurance plan. Other aspects of the program will be provided free of cost.

Chief Human Resources Officer Louis Lemieux said GW will use the campaign to monitor and reduce smoking on campus, and that paired with the smoking policy, the initiative is the “most effective approach to encouraging a smoke-free campus.”

Across the country, 466 colleges have instituted entirely smoke-free campus policies, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation last month. Lemieux declined to comment on why the University chose a support program versus banning smoking on campus.

While the University’s smoking policy supports a smoke-free environment indoors – meaning in all academic, athletic and recreational buildings and parking garages – it does not restrict outdoor smoking on campus, as other area schools have decided to do.

Towson University in Maryland banned smoking on campus last August, while Georgetown University’s policy allows for smoking in designated outdoor areas “at a distance” from buildings that would not expose others to second-hand smoke, according to its website. American University does not allow smoking near residence hall entrances.

Caroline Sparks, associate professor of prevention and community health at the School of Public Health and Health Services, said the University is abandoning the smoke-free campus model for its new cessation program. In 2009, a graduate class taught by Sparks lobbied GW to implement a tobacco-free campus policy.

“It’s primary prevention versus tertiary care,” she said. “They are just avoiding the issue, frankly.”

Campuses for Clean Air, the organization created by students in Sparks’s class, proposed that if GW were to adopt a tobacco-free policy, it should be announced at least three months prior to implementation and be coupled with a task force to address needs and concerns related to the policy and compliance.

“Campuses usually are leaders on this issue, rather than a follower,” Bronson Frick, associate director for ANRF, said. Frick said banning smoking on campus is a major national trend.

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