The University of Michigan announced Monday that the existing ban on the use of tobacco products across all three U-M campuses will be expanded to include prohibiting electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and smokeless tobacco products, effective Nov. 17. The new policy will prohibit the use of ENDS and smokeless tobacco products in all University buildings, facilities, grounds and University-owned vehicles. The new policy will be known as the Tobacco-Free University Premises Policy.
The ban comes in conjunction with The Great American Smokeout, an annual event that takes place on the third Thursday of November. Since 1997, the American Cancer Society has used the Smokeout to encourage people to quit smoking. The use of tobacco products will still be allowed in privately-owned vehicles on campus and on public sidewalks.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disability in the United States, and in 2019, 23% of Michigan high school youth reported currently using at least one tobacco product such as e-cigarettes. Twenty-five colleges and universities in the state of Michigan have voluntarily adopted tobacco-free campus policies.
In a University Record article, Robert Ernst, U-M chief health officer, claimed that the tobacco ban is intended to help students improve their mental and physical well-being.
“This update is a natural progression of our efforts to improve the overall well-being of our campus community,” Ernst wrote. “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.”
The CDC states that seven out of 10 smokers want to quit smoking and has been educating the public about the consequences of smoking and secondhand smoke through a federally-funded national tobacco education campaign, Tips From Former Smokers. Ernst said education and behavior change will be the focus of the enforcement of the Tobacco-Free University Premises policy as well.
The new policy will further ban vapes, vape pens, e-cigarettes, e-cigars and hookah pens in addition to smokeless tobacco products, colloquially known as dip, chew and snuff. An annual study done by the University found that usage of vaping products for nicotine and marijuana doubled between 2017 and 2018 for college students. This increase is one of the largest proportional increases since the study of adult drug use began over 40 years ago.
With the new policy in place, the University is adjusting to assist the campus community. U-M employees, spouses, retirees and other qualified adults who have a U-M health plan can continue to visit the University’s Tobacco Consultation Service to consult with a specialist and select a free cessation program, or a program to help individuals stop the use of addictive drugs like tobacco. U-M health plan holders can receive up to six months of free nicotine replacement therapy medication from pharmacies that have been approved by Michigan Medicine.
In the University Record article, Preeti Malani, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and special adviser to the U-M president, said adolescents and young adults are faced with an outbreak of lung disease and hospitalizations from 2018 to 2020 despite education on the dangers of using tobacco products. According to the CDC, tobacco product use is started and established during adolescence, and flavoring in tobacco products can make the products appealing to a younger audience.
“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 wrote. “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.”
Daily Staff Reporters Rachel Mintz and Riley Hodder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.