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Smoking declines after U-M campus ban

ANN ARBOR—A campus survey reveals a reduction in tobacco use by faculty and staff members roughly a year after the University of Michigan banned smoking on the grounds of its three campuses.

It also shows a community that largely supports the smoke-free campus policy and that has noticed a difference in the level of smoking on campus. Results from two groups— faculty/staff and students—revealed some had taken advantage of the policy's implementation as a time to quit or cut back.

In the faculty/staff group, the number of people who self-reported on anonymous surveys that they smoked declined by one-third, from 6 percent to 4 percent. Of those smokers who responded, 29 percent said they had reduced smoking since the policy was implemented in July 2011.

Sixteen percent of students reported that the policy influenced them to stop smoking or attempt to quit. But, one statistic that is somewhat troubling to leaders of the smoke-free campus effort is the percentage of students indicating they plan to quit, which dropped by 4 percent.

"These results are encouraging. However, we know that the remaining smokers are likely to be those staff, faculty and students who either are not ready to stop, or who have been unable to quit. They will need extra support to stop tobacco use," said Dr. Robert Winfield, U-M chief health officer and director of the University Health Service.

The surveys were sent last November to 10,000 randomly selected members of each group, with 20 percent of faculty/staff and 24 percent of students responding.

Among the findings:

  • 13 percent of faculty/staff reported the policy has had some influence on their quitting/attempt to quit.
  • 72 percent of faculty/staff and 65 percent of students noticed some decrease of smoking on campus since implementation.
  • 89 percent of faculty/staff and 83 percent of students support the smoke-free policy.
  • 79 percent of faculty/staff and 65 percent of students thought the policy implementation was communicated effectively.

Winfield said there has been some uncertainty as to how to respond when a smoker is not complying with the policy.

"A decision was made from the outset to make it everyone's job to encourage compliance," he said. "With repeated violation, student instances can be reported to the Office of Conflict resolution, while staff and faculty instances can be reported to the supervisor or building manager. In either case, the individual will initially be encouraged to comply with the policy and seek assistance at tobacco use cessation."

A smoke-free university advisory committee was convened by U-M President Mary Sue Coleman when the policy was implemented, and it continues to meet regularly to address issues as they arise. Winfield said the survey data further helps guide the group's recommendations regarding the policy and communication.

Overall, he said he is very pleased with the progress to date.

"Health is significantly improved in both the short term and long term by discontinuing the use of combustible tobacco products, and a substantial number of students, faculty and staff have taken advantage of the university wide support offered to stop smoking," Winfield said.