UIC goes tobacco free

Cigarette ButtsSomething is missing on campus — the concrete ashtray/cigarette butt receptacles outside building entrances.

Effective July 1, UIC joined nearly 800 U.S. universities in becoming a tobacco-free campus, prohibiting all forms of tobacco within campus boundaries. This includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, electronic cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products.

The new policy will mean a healthier campus, administrators say.

“UIC is committed to creating and maintaining a healthy, productive environment for all its students, faculty, staff, patients and visitors,” Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares and vice chancellor for administrative services Mark Donovan said when the new policy was announced last spring.

In the last few weeks, signs have been placed around campus notifying the community about the new policy. Campus units can download posters for the workplace

UIC has prohibited smoking indoors and near building entryways since 1995. Last year, discussions within a UIC committee and subcommittees led to the recommendation to make the campus tobacco-free.

Administrators consulted with the university president, UIC vice chancellors and deans, campus senate, graduate and undergraduate student government and student organizations before enacting the policy.

Enforcement primarily depends on the consideration and cooperation of the campus community, administrators say. Concerns should be brought to the person in charge of the facility or the workplace supervisor. Repeated violations may lead to disciplinary action.

The new policy includes an awareness campaign to promote wellness and smoking cessation treatment.

Employees and students who want help quitting can contact the Tobacco Treatment Center at UI Health’s Outpatient Care Center, 312-413-4244, where treatment is covered by most insurance plans.

Free online resources include the Illinois Tobacco Quit Line, quityes.org, 1-866-QUIT-YES; smokefree.gov, developed by the National Cancer Institute; Tips From Former Smokers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and becomeanex.org, developed by a nonprofit organization and the Mayo Clinic.

A combination of medication and behavioral changes is usually the most effective way to quit, but the process can take several months, two UIC experts say.

“Nicotine is known to be as addictive as heroin and cocaine and it can be very challenging for people to quit cold turkey,” said Tobacco Treatment Center director Lori Wilken.

“If somebody is motivated to quit smoking right now, start medication treatment and come up with behavior changes — change up their routine after meals or during breaks — it takes about three months for a behavior change to work.”

“Quitting is a process and it takes time,” said Robin Mermelstein, director of the Institute for Health Research and Policy and professor of psychology.

“It takes people a little longer before they feel really confident and like they’ve made it, but every day is good.”

Students or employees who don’t plan to quit should have nicotine replacement therapies ready, such as nicotine chewing gum, lozenges or patches, Mermelstein said. They should also have a support system in place, like friends who can take a walk with them when they feel the urge to go outside to smoke.

Still, cutting back could make more people feel ready to quit tobacco completely, Mermelstein said.

“People may realize that they got through eight hours, so maybe they can keep going,” she said. “It can boost confidence.”


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