A student smokes a cigarette in front of Tisch Library on Oct. 3. (Seohyun Shim / The Tufts Daily)

Health Service expands resources for student smokers to quit

Tufts Health Service will expand its cessation and education resources for students seeking to quit smoking as soon as this semester, according to Ian Wong, director of the Department of Health Promotion and Prevention. Wong said the resources available to students will include stress reduction workshops, smoking cessation classes and nicotine replacement therapies.

This represents a step in the student-run Tufts Tobacco Free initiative’s nearly five-year effort to decrease tobacco use on campus. The initiative’s ultimate goal of creating a tobacco-free policy across the Medford/Somerville campus, however, is still not ready for implementation, Wong added.

“We still haven’t implemented the policy,”  Wong said. “But the one thing that we really came to realize is that we can do a lot of it without a policy … by helping students with smoking cessation … Regardless [of whether] we are tobacco free … if students want to come forward and say, ‘I really want to quit,’ we have all these resources.”

He said that any student who seeks to quit will now be directed to Tufts Health Service, which plans to work with students’ individual insurance plans to access prescribed nicotine replacement medications.

Jennifer Babineau, a benefits program manager in the human resources department, told the Daily that many resources already exist for Tufts employees who want to quit smoking.

According to Babineau, there are online resources and a one hour seminar called “Tips for Quitting Smoking,” sponsored by the Tufts Health Plan but open to all employees.  Tufts University Wellness Center also provides free consultations in person or over the phone for employees. They may also be directed to AllOne Health Employee Assistance Program, a free and confidential service, or Quitworks, a state program which provides information over the phone about medications and practices for quitting smoking, explained Babineau.

Natalia Sanchez is a medical assistant at the Tufts Wellness Center which addresses faculty and staff health. Sanchez said that any employees who seek to quit smoking can go to the Wellness Center, where they will be first coached for their health and then potentially prescribed nicotine replacement therapies by a nurse practitioner there. Employees may also be referred to the state program, which provides free counseling and nicotine replacement therapies.

In terms of campus policy, junior Catherine Forster is in the process of discussing the specifics with student groups. Forster is currently the only student working on the Tufts Tobacco Free initiative since the five seniors who started it graduated last spring.

According to Forster, Health Service surveyed the student body about a variety of their health-related behaviors, including smoking. She said the survey revealed that about 90 percent of students do not regularly use tobacco products. However, Forster acknowledged that surveys may provide limited information if not all students fill them out, which is part of the reason she seeks to meet with many student groups and obtain more specific information.

Another second survey was created by Megan D’Andrea (LA ’17), who worked on the Tufts Tobacco Free Initiative since her first year at Tufts. According to Forster, the survey asked 26 closed-ended questions which were answered by more than 1,000 students. Questions were divided into three categories: “smoking behaviors and perception of smoking norms on campus,” “level of support for tobacco-free policies” and “perceptions of the benefits and barriers to the implementation and attitudes about the enforcement of a tobacco-free policy at Tufts,” as described in D’Andrea’s senior thesis.

According to ForsterD’Andrea’s survey revealed that 51.62 percent of students reported that they strongly or moderately support a tobacco-free policy, 38.94 percent strongly or moderately oppose such a policy and 9.35 percent neither support nor oppose such a policy. Forster said she is seeking student feedback about moving forward with the policy. She also plans to meet with specific groups, including the LGBT Center, and create focus groups.

“The most important thing we want right now is that resources are tailored to a certain population, so if a population cites the reason for their smoking as stress, we are going to work closely with health services to make sure that’s available,” Forster said.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated certain anti-smoking programs were only available to Tufts employees covered through the Tufts Health Plan. In reality, these programs are open to all employees. The Daily regrets the error.

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