The University of Michigan will prohibit the use of all tobacco products on all of its campuses effective Nov. 17, in conjunction with the Great American Smokeout.
The existing Smoking on University Premises policy, SPG 601.04, will be revised and renamed the Tobacco-Free University Premises policy. The update bans the following products not addressed in the current policy:
- Electronic nicotine delivery systems, or ENDS, which are battery-powered devices used to smoke or “vape” chemical solutions that usually include tobacco. Examples are vapes, vape pens, e-cigarettes, e-cigars and hookah pens.
- Smokeless tobacco products, commonly called dip, chew, snuff and snus.
The Tobacco-Free University Premises policy will prohibit the use of tobacco products in university buildings, facilities and grounds, and university-owned vehicles. Tobacco use will be permitted only in privately-owned vehicles on campuses and on public sidewalks adjacent to public thoroughfares.
“This update is a natural progression of our efforts to improve the overall well-being of our campus community,” said Rob Ernst, chief health officer and associate vice president of student life for health and wellness.
“Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death, disease and disability in the U.S. When we instituted our smoke-free policy in 2011, this new generation of products was not commonly used. But during the last decade, the sale of ENDS has more than doubled.”
Michigan Medicine revised its Tobacco-Free Environment Policy in 2016 to prohibit electronic nicotine delivery systems and smokeless tobacco products. That policy bans the use of tobacco products in its buildings, grounds, parking lots and ramps, and will remain unchanged.
Programs, tools to assist campus communities
Employees, spouses, other qualified adults and retirees covered by U-M health plans may consult with a specialist from the university’s Tobacco Consultation Service to select a free cessation program. These programs are offered in virtual and phone formats.
U-M health plan members also may receive up to six months of nicotine-replacement therapy medication from an approved Michigan Medicine pharmacy at no cost.
Call the Tobacco Consultation Service at 734-998-6222 for more information. MHealthy’s Tobacco Treatment Toolkit offers additional resources.
New tobacco products put youth at risk
With flavors such as bubblegum and a slick new look, electronic nicotine delivery systems have targeted younger generations more than traditional cigarettes, to the dismay of Preeti Malani, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and special adviser to the U-M president.
“Even though tobacco products have been revamped with different delivery systems, given new names and repackaged on social media, their harmful health effects remain,” Malani said.
She cited an outbreak of lung disease mainly in adolescents and young adults that hospitalized more than 2,800 people from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories from 2018-20.
“Vaping is often marketed as a way to help people stop smoking, but nicotine is nicotine, no matter how it’s delivered. Once you form a physical addiction, your body begins to crave it,” she said.
Malani encouraged students to take advantage of the university’s cessation services, which include free support from wellness coaches in University Health Service. Nicotine-replacement therapy also is available at no cost for those participating in coaching programs.
“This will be a significant change for some in our U-M community,” Ernst said. “If you want to stop using tobacco or decrease your use, we encourage you to join the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 17 and follow the American Cancer Society’s guidance, which is, ‘Start with day one.’”
Enforcement of the Tobacco-Free University Premises policy will focus on education and behavior change, unless offenses become habitual, Ernst said.
The transition to a tobacco-free university will cap years of work toward decreasing the harmful effects of nicotine on U-M campuses.
The university instituted a universitywide ban on smoking in buildings (except designated residence halls) and university vehicles in 1987. In 1998, the Health System, now Michigan Medicine, prohibited smoking on its grounds and in public spaces. In 2003, the Residence Hall Association eliminated smoking from residence halls. And in 2011, the university implemented the Smoke-Free University Campuses policy.