Butting out on campus

Smoke out Challenge to help smokers quit and designating smoking areas to reduce exposure

Jessica Klymchuk, News Editor Ω

 Kiefer Stout, Cassy Ivey and Morgan Hoot tabled in the International Building on Jan. 23 to encourage sign-up for the Great Canadian Smoke Out. Respiratory therapy students have tables set up every Tuesday in Old Main and Thursday in the trades building to educate TRU on tobacco harm and respiratory health. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

Kiefer Stout, Cassy Ivey and Morgan Hoot tabled in the International Building on Jan. 23 to encourage sign-up for the Great Canadian Smoke Out. Respiratory therapy students have tables set up every Tuesday in Old Main and Thursday in the trades building to educate TRU on tobacco harm and respiratory health. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

“Hang tough and don’t puff” – that’s the message respiratory therapy students are sending to smokers who are ready to quit. The annual Great Canadian Smoke Out Challenge launches Jan. 28 with $600 in prizes up for grabs to those who manage to kick the nic’.

For students, the biggest smoking triggers tend to be social habits and stress. The hardest part of quitting on campus, however, can be having to walk through the puff of smoke when entering buildings like Old Main.

Janine Chan, respiratory therapy faculty, and Chelsea Corsi, TRU wellness coordinator, have been on a mission for the last couple years to gain support for designated smoking areas on campus, mostly because inhaling second- and third-hand smoke is nearly as dangerous as puffing yourself. Without designated smoking areas, the cloud is hard to avoid.

On two separate occasions, campus studies have shown that students are in support of designating smoking areas.

In 2009, TRU Wellness conducted the Tobacco Use and Policy Survey, which garnered 549 responses with the majority saying they would like to see a smoke-free environment implemented. In 2011, the Tobacco Strategies Clinic conducted a tobacco practices survey with results showing that 71 per cent of the 370 respondents would like to see a change.

The TRU smoking sub-committee under TRU health and safety has had a resurgence of support for designated smoking areas this January after a policy was sent to administration last year. Once adjustments are made, the policy will be close to approval.

Research has been conducted in coordination with facilities and trades and architecture programs to map out locations and design prototypes. Last spring the committee received a capital grant of $3,000 towards the initiative but if the policy doesn’t move forward this spring, a year later, they could lose it.

Moving forward the committee will continue to seek TRU community input on designated smoking areas and work towards implementation. Chan and Corsi were adamant that they don’t want this to be a “top-down” process, but a gradual adjustment and acceptance by the community.

“Our main goal is to reduce exposure,” said Corsi. “It’s the harm-reduction model.

The Great Canadian Smoke Out Challenge is an initiative collaboratively organized by TRU’s Respiratory Therapy Tobacco Education Clinic and the TRU Wellness Centre. From January until April, six respiratory therapy students will help participants stay smoke-free.

“People really need that support to quit and to be effective and just to be successful,” Corsi said.

Participants will meet students as many as three times per week to monitor vitals, carbon-monoxide levels and blood pressure, and also brainstorm personalized strategies for overcoming nicotine addiction. Those who don’t smoke are also welcome to accept the challenge.

Respiratory therapy student Cassie Robertson said there is a great team this year and participants can really put their trust in the students to support them, which is part of the battle.

Tobacco kills up to 50 per cent of those who use it, according to a 2013 World Health Organization fact sheet.

“That’s a pretty hard statistic to swallow when you’re using a substance that’s so addictive,” Chan said. “But your chances of living a long life are cut in half.”

Chan said the government has realized that helping fund smokers to quit is more economical than funding the health needs of life-long smokers. B.C. PharmaCare now funds 12 weeks worth of the nicotine patch or gum. Smoking is finally being seen as an addiction rather than a habit, Chan said.

Adrienne Beley and Stephanie Drysdale supported patients through the GCSO last year and have been involved in the designated smoking area initiative. Between the two of them they had five smokers successfully quit and one that managed to reduce. They agreed that successful participants are the ones who are ready to commit to quitting.

“Quitting now will be easier than quitting later,” Beley said.

Between the physical, social and emotional addictions to nicotine, Beley and Drysdale said stress and social situations were the biggest triggers they saw patients deal with.