“Blow Bubbles, not Smoke” event celebrates tobacco free campus


Anisa Jibrell – News Writer

It’s official: Southern is the first public university in the state of Connecticut to become a 100 percent tobacco-free campus. A milestone that Senator Richard Blumenthal described as a “real example of leadership,” during an event held in the Buley library titled “Blow Bubbles, not Smoke,” that celebrated Southern’s decision.

“Today Southern is taking a stand, sending a signal that everybody’s health is affected by smoking. Second-hand smoke kills just as surely and tenaciously as actual smoking,” said Blumenthal, addressing the crowd. “You are saving lives and you’re also saving dollars by making this campus smoke-free.”

Southern is among roughly over 1,500 campuses that have joined the tobacco-free wave, according to a report by the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.

Other speakers included President Mary A. Papazian, Diane Morgenthaler, Student Health and Wellness Center director, deputy commissioner of the CT Department of Public Health, Raul Pino and vice president of the Student Government Association, Nick Charnysh.

Papazian said the policy is designed to increase productivity, reduce campus litter, and prepare students for careers in increasingly tobacco-free work environments.

“Student health is integral to student success,” said Papazian.

The Wellness Center has just received the Tobacco Grant from the state Department of Public Health that will be used to implement, evaluate, and improve tobacco prevention through programming and increasing human and financial resources, according to the university website.

The Wellness Center is now offering an 8-week cessation program for students willing to quit smoking. Students in the program will meet weekly to cover topics that may interfere with quitting, and discuss options for medication.

According to Morgenthaler, the Yale School of Medicine is going to conduct a study in conjunction with Southern’s health services that examines the impact of text-messaging on a student’s ability to end their nicotine addiction.  Those who qualify and complete the program will be given a stipend.

“For individuals reluctant to seek outside help, remember you don’t get extra credit for white-knuckling it,” said Morgenthaler, who as a former smoker, who is all too familiar with the difficulties that come along with spearheading nicotine addiction.

Blumenthal discussed the importance of preventing other forms of smoking that may not involve tobacco, such as vaping, that may lead to nicotine addiction.

“I know this kind of decision may not be completely without controversy. Some folks may have criticism but that’s what leadership requires,’ said Blumenthal. “Taking a stand, standing up and speaking out as you are doing today.”

Emily Rosenthal, Wellness Center Coordinator, said that she thinks one of the biggest challenges will be educating people about why e-cigarettes and vaping were included in the new initiative.

“E-cigarettes are a whole new frontier and more and more young people are using e-cigarettes,” said Rosenthal.

A report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges that more than 40 percent of all poison center calls are related to  e-cigarette-type products. There are 710 campuses nationwide that have prohibited the use of e-cigarettes, according to the ANRF.

“It’s going to be a challenge because smokers are everywhere, but we’re just hoping that it’s an honor system and that people respect the policy and respect the rules of the university,” said Ashley Isham, graduate intern at the wellness center.

Isham says Southern’s first year under the new policy will be focused on education and positive outreach.

“Our goal is to educate people and create positive outreach and support. We don’t want smokers to feel bad, or punished, or ostracized, or any of those things,” said Rosenthal. “We want to help them.”

Photo Credit: Tyler Korponai

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