CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 9, 2014)—Sixteen months after the University of Miami joined the ever-growing list of institutions of higher learning to prohibit smoking anywhere on their campuses, the U is, for the most part, smoke free. There may, however, be occasions when you encounter a student, visitor, or fellow employee lighting up, which raises the question: What should I do?
The answer lies in UM’s smoke-free campus policy, which places the collective responsibility of enforcing the smoking ban on faculty, staff, and students, who “are encouraged to directly and politely inform those unaware of the policy, or remind those in disregard of it.”
“Every member of our campus community should feel comfortable in gently reminding individuals who are smoking on campus that smoking is not permitted anywhere,’’ said Ricardo Hall, assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students. “Our experience shows that the vast majority of individuals quickly comply.”
Faculty and staff also are encouraged to make smokers aware of the University resources available to help them, their families and friends, and the broader community kick their highly addictive habit, which is exceedingly difficult to accomplish alone.
“Quitting is hard. It may be the hardest thing smokers ever do, but in keeping with the University’s commitment to wellness and the creation of the healthiest workplace possible, the University makes it easy for smokers to take the first step,” said Nerissa Morris, vice president for human resources and chair of the UM Wellness Advisory Council. “We continue to offer free resources to help smokers quit.”
Among them is UM’s award-winning Be Smoke Free smoking cessation program, which offers free Quit Smoking Now classes to UM students, employees, their family members, and the community at large. The six-week program includes group session counseling, education, and quit-smoking aids—such as nicotine replacement therapies—that together can help smokers minimize cravings, bolster resolve, and build a new sense of self free from the grip of nicotine addiction.
“Because nicotine is highly addictive, willpower and knowledge about the health hazards of using tobacco are not enough to help most people quit,” says Mohammad Asad, coordinator of the Be Smoke Free program. “Your cessation group can support you throughout your quitting process.”
The support group was key for Steven Peace, a senior manager at the Miller School of Medicine-based Florida Cancer Data System who began smoking in high school and vowed he’d stop at age 50—but failed every attempt. Six years later, he turned to the Be Smoke Free program to help him keep his promise, and succeeded.
“I feel so much better, and the Be Smoke Free program was a great way to help me quit. It was convenient, friendly, and supportive,” Peace says. “If you haven’t quit, it’s a good time to do so. You’ll be happier and healthier, and you will be able to breathe—and smell—so much better once you do.”
In addition to feeling (and smelling) better, Peace notes another benefit. He’ll no longer have to pay the smoker’s surcharge, which will double to $100 a month, for his UM health insurance.
The Quit Smoking Now classes are held at the Herbert Wellness Center on the Coral Gables campus and the UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center on the Miller School campus, but wellness center membership is not required to attend. For a complete schedule and more information, visit miami.edu/besmokefree. To register, call 305-243-7606 or email Asad at MAsad@med.miami.edu.
The Faculty and Staff Assistance Program is another resource available to help employees and their dependents engage in conversations about the importance of quitting through free and confidential consultations.
Initiated by students who overwhelmingly supported a smoke-free Coral Gables campus, the smoke-free policy originated on the Miller School of Medicine campus in 2010. The Gables campus began phasing in its own policy the following year, initially restricting smoking to designated areas and prohibiting smoking everywhere as of August 1, 2013.
The policy specifically prohibits inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying any lighted cigarette or electronic cigarette, cigar, pipe, or other such device that contains tobacco or other smoke-producing products anywhere on campus, including University-owned or leased property, facilities, buildings, passageways, or parking garages.
So faculty and staff who see smokers anywhere on campus should gently remind them to extinguish their products, and encourage them to consider kicking their habit. As President Donna E. Shalala said in August 2013, when the Coral Gables campus joined the medical campus in becoming 100-percent smoke free, “We can all contribute to the success of the initiative by letting others know about the new policy and pitching in to help them comply.”