U-M clarifies tobacco policy; free cessation group available


The Tobacco-free University Premises policy has been revised to clarify cultural practices considered exempt from new restrictions.

The policy, SPG 601.04, was updated in November 2022 to add electronic nicotine delivery systems such as e-cigarettes, vapes, e-cigars and more, as well as smokeless tobacco, to its banned substances list. These items are prohibited on U-M grounds, and in university buildings and vehicles.

Language clarifying the practice of smudging, a historical ritual of some Indigenous or Native American people, was added and approved Dec. 14. Section F of the Tobacco-free University Premises policy now reads:

“Tobacco use is not prohibited for fundamental traditional and ceremonial use of tobacco such as by Native American tribal members with prior approval of the dean or director responsible for the facility. An example of a ceremonial use is smudging, a sacred, centuries-old cultural practice used by Indigenous/Native American people that involves the burning of herbs such as sage, sweet grass and tobacco.”

“Smudging is a sacred practice with many ceremonial purposes,” said Rob Ernst, chief health officer. “It’s important for everyone in our community to understand the difference between cultural practices, such as smudging, and the recreational use of commercial tobacco products. This update to the SPG helps to highlight that contrast.”

The revised policy will be shared with facilities managers, Student Life personnel and other key administrative groups to further their understanding of the practice. Those planning a smudging ceremony are encouraged to read U-M’s Smudging Safety Policy to ensure public safety measures are followed.

“We always seek to be inclusive and not to restrict engagement in cultural or religious practices,” Ernst said. “Collaborating with building managers and the Environment, Health and Safety department ahead of a smudging ceremony is an essential part of that process, which helps to keep everyone safe.”

Free employee program available

To help those considering quitting tobacco in 2023, U-M has partnered with the American Lung Association to host a Freedom From Smoking program. Classes are being scheduled in February and March. Interested employees should contact the Tobacco Consultation Service at 734-998-6222 for information.

Participants will meet online each week to discuss:

  • How to know if you’re ready to quit.
  • Cessation medications to increase success.
  • Lifestyle changes to make quitting easier.
  • Coping strategies for managing stress and avoiding weight gain.
  • How to develop a new self-image.
  • How to stay tobacco-free for good.

“The goal is to provide people considering quitting a pathway toward setting a date. That step is often the hardest,” said Alena Williams, MHealthy program manager. “Knowing you’re not alone, and that you have a team that understands and supports you, can make a huge difference for success.”

Freedom From Smoking is offered at no cost to faculty and staff.

Students seeking cessation assistance may receive free personal guidance from Wolverine Wellness coaches. Call 734-763-1320 or email wellnesscoachingQs@umich.edu for information.


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