University prepares to go tobacco-free
On Aug. 1, Binghamton University will become tobacco-free. “No smoking” will be expanded to include “no vaping, no hookahs, no chewing and no snus,” as all tobacco and tobacco-derived products intended for human consumption will be prohibited from use on University property.
Those who best understand how difficult this will be are smokers, former smokers and Geraldine Britton, PhD ’04, assistant professor of nursing who launched the Interdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Program (ITURP) nearly 10 years ago. “Nicotine withdrawal symptoms, and the fear of withdrawal symptoms, are very real,” she says. “Nicotine addiction is a disease. People haven’t always thought of it that way, but it’s a disease and it should be treated by providers.”
In advance of the new policy, the University has stepped up efforts to provide education and resources for those seeking to quit or decrease use of tobacco products.
One of the resources is the Healthy Practices Clinic within the Decker School of Nursing (Academic B, Room 331), a joint project of Decker and ITURP, staffed by nurse practitioners and nursing students. It provides health assessment and tobacco-free support to faculty, staff and students, including nicotine replacement therapy and counseling.
The physical side of nicotine addiction is just part of the problem. “There are psychological and social aspects of tobacco use that add to the addiction. These are interrelated and intertwined, which makes the challenge of nicotine addiction really unique,” says Joyce Rhodes-Keefe ’82, MS ’08, clinical assistant professor of nursing at Binghamton.
For instance, some international students may find the University’s tobacco-free policy particularly tough because, in their culture, smoking is the norm. “Some nations consider it offensive if you do not partake in smoking. It’s considered as a welcome to put cigarettes out for guests,” she says.
“We are not forcing anybody to quit,” Rhodes-Keefe adds. “We are here to provide services as they initiate the process.”
The Healthy Practices Clinic not only looks at tobacco use but at healthy behaviors, as well. And Rhodes-Keefe expects a lot of data to be gathered about both. “Since we are very much geared to research, we’re looking at having that data and then being able to analyze it for trends, as well as have the ability to develop and provide better tobacco-use education and services,” she says.