Few students seek GW’s help to quit smoking

GW will continue to develop smoking cessation programs to work toward a smoke-free campus by 2013, but only a handful of students seek in-person help to kick their habits each semester.

Student Health Service associate director Susan Haney said about five students typically participate in group or individual sessions each semester. She said more students may be using the online forums – which are also available for employees – though those numbers are more difficult to count.

“Right now, we’re focusing on giving them quitting information,” said Haney, who sees most of the students who come in for help.

Most undergraduates don’t think of themselves as long-term smokers because they’re young, she said. But when the smoke-free policy comes into effect next fall, Haney said she will likely hold more group sessions.

For students, GW offers free individual and group sessions to set goals to quit, along with information about nicotine patches and medication for withdrawal symptoms. If a student is on GW’s Aetna healthcare plan, he or she can also participate in the yearlong Quit and Fit program with online resources.

Last month, the University launched a GW-funded benefit program that gives financial incentives to faculty and staff who pledge to quit smoking. University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said there have already been “a number of registrations, and we hope more faculty and staff will take advantage.”

Sherrard said she could not provide the exact number of students, faculty and staff who use GW’s free online quitting programs, because it “is difficult to track, since we do not have a way of knowing when an individual is using these resources.” She also could not provide further information on the financial incentives by publication time.

Faculty and staff can use the American Cancer Society’s Quit for Life program, which offers free nicotine patches and online and over-the-phone coaching. Employees who use the United Health Care plan also have access to another five-week program.

Rose Bruckner, a facilities employee, decided this month to drop her 35-year smoking habit.

The 50-year-old has been cigarette-free for two weeks since starting an online American Cancer Society program and going on a nicotine patch paid for by GW.

Bruckner said she checks online daily to remind herself how much money she has saved, how many smoke-free breaths she has taken and how many days she has gone without a cigarette. And when the University begins enforcing its smoking ban around campus next fall, she said it will likely help her stay away from cigarettes for good.

“Now that I’m not smoking, I love the idea,” she said. “Now that I’m a non-smoker, it’s going to help me stay smoke-free.”

About 20 students and University employees will determine how to implement the ban next semester, Associate Provost and Dean of Students Peter Konwerski said.

“People are starting to ask, ‘What are the repercussions?’ And the benefit is that we have the rest of the year to come up with a set of actions people are comfortable with,” Konwerski said.

Students who violate the ban will be referred to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, and faculty and staff will be referred to Human Resources, according to planning documents.

The committee will create different policies for all three campuses: Foggy Bottom, Mount Vernon and the Virginia Science and Technology Campus. Chair of the Faculty Senate Michael Castleberry said earlier this year that the Mount Vernon Campus could become completely smoke-free because it is closed.

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