Preparing for a tobacco and smoke-free campus

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The University community continues to prepare for the Jan 1, 2018 designation of McMaster’s tobacco and smoke-free campus. Since the announcement in September students, staff and faculty have been working together to get ready for the change.


The University community continues to prepare for the January 1, 2018 designation of McMaster’s tobacco and smoke-free campus. On that date, McMaster will be the first 100% smoke-free Ontario campus.

Since the September announcement of this new designation, students, staff and faculty have been working together to get ready for the change.

“The community has been highly involved in the preparations,” says Sean Van Koughnett, dean of students and the co-chair of the University’s Smoke-Free implementation committee. “Smoking cessation sessions are underway for students and staff, and there’s been orientation for peer groups and health educators and an opportunity to provide input and feedback on the implementation of the new policy.”

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has helped provide cessation programming, workshops and resources on campus. Hamilton Public Health has also provided cessation training involving Student Wellness staff, Employee Health Nurses, Residence Life staff and Security officers.

Preparatory training sessions have been offered to student peer groups and services across campus including Queer Students Community Centre, Women + Gender Equity Network, Maccess, Student Health Education Centre, and McMaster Indigenous Student Community Alliance.

During the first year of the new designation, there will be an informal enforcement that will emphasize education and awareness approach. Information materials listing smoking cessation supports and other resources will be distributed and shared with those found smoking on campus.

“The goal of this initiative is not to penalize or to be punitive,” says Wanda McKenna, McMaster’s Chief Human Resources Officer and co-chair of the campus committee. “The goal is to help advance the health and well-being of all members of the community and the campus itself, and we understand that transitioning to a smoke-free and tobacco-free environment can be a challenge.”

Ontario’s hospitals have gone through this transition to 100% smoke-free environment and the University is consulting with Public Health and others to learn from that experience. The McMaster Children’s Hospital environment has gone smoke-free and campus residence buildings are all non-smoking. Many municipalities also prohibit smoking in outdoor areas like parks and playfields and there has been a review of how those policies are implemented.

When the draft policy was posted and comments were invited, several individuals and groups provided feedback on the implementation plan. The implementation committee is using the feedback to add to already planned communications and training, and adding additional Frequently Asked Questions and answers. Adjustments will be made to the location of some previously identified cigarette receptacles, there will be further review of the safety protocols for individuals walking through campus, and simplifying of the smudging protocol.

McMaster’s tobacco and smoke free initiative has also sparked many questions about the use of cannabis. While the federal government has announced an intention to legalize cannabis in 2018, draft legislation is not yet available. Cannabis is expected to remain a heavily controlled substance. Smoking of cannabis on campus is prohibited. The University’s student and employee accommodations policies are in place for any member of the community who has been prescribed cannabis for medical purposes and seeks accommodation.

A tobacco and smoke-free campus supports McMaster’s commitment as a signatory to the Okanagan Charter, which commits the University to pursuing a healthy and sustainable campus.

Earlier this month McMaster took part in a 1 Day Stand event, an initiative by Leave the Pack Behind and Public Health partners, and hosted a panel discussion about the Tobacco and Smoke Free Campus policy. McMaster panelists included Sean Van Koughnett, Cathy Jager, Education/Nurse Manager, Student Wellness Centre, Sadi Loai and Nischal Praveen, Leave the Pack Behind, McMaster chapter, as well as a Hamilton Public Health representative and a member from the California Youth Advocacy Network. The panel discussion was live-streamed to McMaster’s Facebook page.

McMaster’s Smoke Free campus website contains an extensive FAQ, listings of supports for students, staff, and faculty and a managers toolkit.

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