Here's our plea: Make RIC tobacco free!
Katherine Haley & Erin Marcet
Rhode Island College Senior Nursing Students
According to the American Cancer Society, “Over 1 million out of 20 million college students are projected to die prematurely from cigarette smoking.” Currently, Rhode Island College has an outdated smoking policy, which does not include other forms of tobacco like e-cigarettes, vapor, hookah and chewing tobacco. The policy also states that smoking is allowed, as long as it is outdoors, and 50 feet away from buildings. The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation reported that 1,975 college campuses nationwide currently have tobacco free policies, including neighboring Johnson & Wales University. As cigarette smoking causes nearly one in five deaths in the United States, it is imperative that the Rhode Island College policy is modified to better suit the health needs of students, faculty, staff, children, and community members.
As part of our public policy project for our Public & Community Public Health Nursing course, we conducted some key informant interviews. As a step towards the goal of a healthier campus, Rhode Island College President Frank Sanchez, stated, “I realize we could be doing more to make our existing policies work.” In addition, we interviewed Assistant Vice President for Administration and Finance, Jeffrey Martin. He remarked that he was willing to help ensure that the campus remains in compliance with the current policy. He also believes that it would be beneficial to modify the current policy to ban the use of tobacco products on campus, saying, “I would love to see a ban.”
In order to remain compliant with the current policy, all cigarette receptacles must be moved 50 feet away from all Rhode Island College facilities. While the current policy does include this requirement, it does not take into account the impact that cigarette butt litter has on the environment. Per the World Health Organization, trillions of cigarette filters, are discarded annually, leading to an additional 175-200 tons of non-biodegradable waste. Christie Rishworth, Interim Director Rhode Island College Health Services, stated that, “As a department, you have our support in making RIC tobacco free.” In order to implement this initiative, the Rhode Island College Health Services office has offered to include tobacco screening with annual physicals and cessation services as a part of their regular services.
The offering of tobacco cessation assistance is included as a recommendation from the Rhode Island Department of Health Tobacco Free Campus Initiative. The initiative has the goal to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke on college campuses in the State of Rhode Island. The University of Rhode Island (URI) has also worked alongside the Department of Health to push for a tobacco free campus. URI Director of Health Services, Ellen Reynolds, states that, “We have a responsibility to do this.” As a community, every member of the Rhode Island College campus is impacted by tobacco exposure. Smoke exposure puts people at an increased risk for numerous disease states, and accounts for approximately 5.4 million deaths worldwide each year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, this number is expected to grow to 8 million deaths per year by 2030. To address this growing issue, our clinical group is proposing a policy revision to update the current fifteen year old policy to become a tobacco-free campus. The Rhode Island College (RIC) community is a diverse group of people, including children as young as three years old who are on campus on a regular basis. The impact of tobacco use extends to all members of the RIC community. Requiring a tobacco-free campus would allow for additional resources to be available to current tobacco users, improve campus environmental quality, decrease exposure to tobacco products, and help to move the Rhode Island College community towards a healthier, tobacco-free environment. If you, or someone you know, needs help to quit tobacco use, please call the Rhode Island Department of Health Quit Now Hotline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or 1-800-784-8669 or visit the RIC Health Services office for assistance.