UHS questions if tobacco ban will lead to more students quitting

Samantha Ickes

Smoking cessation programs have been offered at Kent State’s main campus for more than 10 years, providing students with free resources to quit smoking. With a university-wide smoking ban going into effect July 1, 2017, Sierra Baker, a University Health Services health educator, said UHS expects an increase in the number of students attending the cessation.

In anticipation of growth, Baker was hired in August as the second facilitator of the tobacco cessation program, which is a program from the American Lung Association (ALA) known as “Freedom From Smoking.” Baker said the program typically sees between two and five students each semester.

”We didn’t know with having this upcoming policy (if there) would be a jump in our numbers in this cessation program because typically we have a handful of students go through (the) program each semester,” Baker said. “Having this new policy next July, we did kind of wonder — and still are kind of wondering — (if we) will … see a huge jump where maybe 15 people are in the program.”

The program, which takes seven weeks to complete, was recently completed by three students. Students meet eight times during those seven weeks and completely stop smoking during week four of the program.

Baker said the students meet with the facilitator twice in the fourth week because the first 48 hours of quitting “is such a critical time.”

The first session of the program involves learning what is expected of the student and what resources are available to them. Baker said students are not committed to staying in the program until halfway through the first session, after learning more about the program.

“It’s going over what’s to be expected and answering questions that students have,” Baker said. “You’re not a committed participant of the program until halfway through the session. It’s important to know you’re not automatically signed up and quitting just because you walked in.”

The program includes many self-reflection activities. For example, Baker said students have “homework” such as a Pack Track where they write down when they smoke, the circumstances around it and how they’re feeling when they smoke.

Students record this for three to five days and then evaluate what they find. If they find themselves smoking when they’re bored, Baker said she would discuss strategies to help prevent them from falling back on smoking.

“Research has show from the ALA that the more involved people are in these activities the more successful they are in quitting,” Baker said. “No single method of quitting works for everyone.”

Sophomore early childhood education major Samantha Haley said she doesn’t plan to quit smoking as a result of the ban on campus.

“I’m not ready to quit right now,” Haley said. “Just because I can’t (smoke) on campus, it won’t make me stop doing it off (campus).”

Haley has been smoking for four years and is unsure if the ban will be effective at keeping people from smoking on campus.

“Even though they are banning smoking on campus, I don’t think it will stop completely,” Haley said. “People will still smoke or vape on campus. They don’t think what they do affects anyone else, and I still see people vaping inside.”

Though the cessation program has not had an increase in participants this fall semester, Baker said there still may be an increase in the spring as people begin to prepare for the ban. However, she said she believes people’s readiness to quit smoking is a larger factor than the changing policy.

“I don’t think the policy is making people quit smoking,” Baker said. “It’s saying you can’t do it on campus anymore. But when you look at people’s behavior change and their readiness to change, if they’re not wanting to quit or contemplating quitting any time soon, then I don’t think the policy is going to make them jump and sign up for this program.”

For more information call 330-672-8265 or email Baker at [email protected].

Samantha Ickes is a features correspondent, contact her at [email protected].