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Northeastern says smoke-free policy will encourage students, rather than punish them

Posted by Your Town  May 15, 2013 12:23 PM

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Shortly after Northeastern University announced plans to be a smoke-free campus in the fall, school officials clarified the policy, saying that students caught smoking would not be fined or punished, but rather encouraged to quit with the help of university resources.

Terry Fulmer, dean of the Bouve College of Health Sciences at Northeastern, said Tuesday in a phone interview that the university will follow a “public health model,” meaning it will provide education and support to help smokers quit.

“We believe that it will be self enforced, from student to student, peer to peer, that students will remind each other that the campus is smoke-free,” Fulmer said.

Northeaster plans offer groups and free nicotine patches to its community members, she said. In addition, signs indicating the campus is smoke-free will be placed on campus.

Fulmer said that with the current policy, people are not permitted to smoke within 15 feet of a building. Students frequently smoke outside of the library and in the main quad area, she said. And of those who completed a university survey, 15 percent of participants indicated that they had smoked in the past three weeks, and 7 percent reported that they smoke every day.

“Our goal is to really help the university community to have healthy lungs,” Fulmer said.

Northeastern will join more than 1,100 colleges and universities across the nation that have decided to become smoke-free, Fulmer said. She said the Northeastern will be among the first smoke-free campuses in the Boston area, along with the Wentworth Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School.

According to a statement released Tuesday by the university, in December, Northeastern formed a 10 person committee to study the issue. The group has held two “town-hall” meetings, and has received feedback through surveys, social media, and e-mail. The statement also said the committee consulted local, state, and federal experts about adopting the new policy.

The university launched a smoking cessation program called “Ready to Quit!” in February, in which participants receive supportive text messages, weekly phone calls, twice a month meetings with a nurse, and the opportunity to meet with a therapist, according to the statement. Similar resources are available to “benefits-eligible” faculty and staff.

Fulmer said that the feedback from students has been overwhelmingly in support of going smoke-free.

“This is our moment for the university to really help people kick the habit,” Fulmer said.

Katherine Landergan can be reached at klandergan@globe.com. For campus news updates, follow her on Twitter @klandergan.

Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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