Tobacco free transition began today, task force to begin work soon

Northern Kentucky University has officially started the process of making the transition to a tobacco-free campus, as of this morning at the NKU Community Breakfast Forum. The forum, open to the campus and surrounding community, hosted vendors that provided information about tobacco-free products and smoking cessation programs, as well as Ty Patterson, executive director of the National Center for Tobacco Policy.

Patterson presented his key steps to a successfully transitioning from a limited smoking campus to a completely tobacco free one. Since 2010, Patterson has helped more than 700 higher education institutions learn how to implement tobacco-free campus policies, including most recently, all 23 campuses of the CIty University of New York.

NKU Board of Regents voted unanimously Jan. 9 to make the campus tobacco-free. Currently, the campus is smoke-free, except in designated smoking areas.

With eight key steps, Patterson outlined a “culture change” approach for NKU to take when making the transition. He suggested a “respect-based” approach that involves more educating than punishing violators.

He stressed that institutions need to remember that norms change, and the university should change with them, but it is still important to provide sufficient and easy-to-access information on why the university decided to go tobacco-free. Patterson’s best option to achieve this was not signage across campus, but through a dynamic website.

NKU recently launched its site, for the campus and community to stay updated.

“Communication is crucial,” he said.

Support, not necessarily agreement, and understanding of the policy from administrators and the community will also play a role in a tobacco-free campus’ success, according to Patterson.

To continue the timeline of a 12-18 month process, President Geoffrey Mearns announced Dean of Students Jeffrey Waple, Director of Wellness Karen Campbell and communication professor Steven Weiss as co-chairs of the Tobacco-Free Task Force. The task force will be made up of five subcommittees that report to an advisory council.

The co-chairs are currently in the process of appointing members to each of the subcommittees.