By Autre Murray
In Michigan, the number of adults who smoke tobacco has been steadily decreasing since the year 2011, and locally, Western Michigan University’s tobacco-free campus policy strives to help maintain that progress.
Smoking is a major health risk for users as well as those around them. Reducing second-hand smoke is a problem that Michigan hopes to resolve through its Smoke Free Air Law enacted in 2009, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Since then, some higher education institutions, including WMU, have been enacting tobacco-free policies of their own. WMU is among the largest of the tobacco-free campuses in Michigan, according to the American Lung Association.
In Michigan, from 2011 to 2015, the number of adults using tobacco decreased to 21 percent from 23 percent. In addition, adults are quitting altogether; the CDC found an increase to 56 from 52 percent in the number of adults who have quit smoking.
WMU’s tobacco free policy went into effect 2014, enacted by a diverse committee of both smokers and non-smokers whose concerns were for campus and personal health. Cari Robertson, WMU’s director of health promotion and education and co-founder of the tobacco free policy, said the intent is not to exclude tobacco users, but rather to include everyone in building a healthy lifestyle and environment.
Robertson said that quitting tobacco can be challenging for some people due to its addictive nature. She said that the campus is fortunate for the funding that has paid for cessation medicines and counseling, which is available at the Sindecuse Pharmacy on campus for students and employees.
Amy Seth, WMU’s director of university recreation, is also a co-founder of the policy. Seth said with the help of the Western Student Association, campus leaders should consider programs that offer a financial reward to stop tobacco use.
Logan Brown, the head of the W.S.A. sustainability committee, collaborated with Seth on putting up more signs across campus so that everyone is aware of the policy.
“If we can get people to stop smoking altogether instead of just not smoking on campus, that’s even better,” Brown said.