Students want their peers to leave the pack behind


McMaster University has officially launched a smoke-free campus campaign to reduce smoking prevalence by challenging the social acceptability of smoking through information and awareness.

The campaign, titled “Leave the Pack Behind,” is funded by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and is a collaborative effort among several colleges and universities. The campaign is geared to reach 50,000 post-secondary students and to educate them about the effects of smoking and to provide ways for them to kick the habit.

The $250,000-project is being co-ordinated by Brock University. McMaster University, McMaster Student Health Service, Hamilton-Wentworth Public Health Department, the Regional Public Health Department, Niagara College, Queen's University, Kingston-Frontenac-Lennox-Addington Unit, Mohawk College, University of Windsor, Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, and the University of Guelph are project participants.

“New statistics show an 11 per cent increase in new-start smokers when students enter college or university. When we learned of this we said 'Whoa, let's see what kind of prevention efforts we can target for this population,'” says Jane Radix, health promotion co-ordinator, McMaster Student Health Service. “This project is a first-time funding venture to look at prevention efforts in this target population. We hope it's a test pilot for more funding down the road.”

The key objectives of the campaign are:

* to reduce smoking prevalence and/or the amount students smoke;

* to develop awareness campaign using all forms of the media applicable to students;

* to focus on nicotine addiction and its treatment options to be offered on campuses;

* to recruit students who smoke to the various quit-smoking options to be offered on campuses;

* to provide training to campus health care professionals and graduate students for computer-assisted, minimal contact interventions for smoking cessation;

* to provide in-depth smoking cessation counselling training for physicians, nurses, and counsellors who provide services to students;

* to provide ongoing support during the summer months through telephone counselling and an interactive Web site for students who have quit.

A graduate student has been hired to co-ordinate the project at McMaster and Mohawk College. Two undergraduates students have also been hired as counsellors to work with students in both communities. In addition, both McMaster and Mohawk have each hired five students to promote awareness of the campaign on campus.

The funding for the project is being provided until October. As a result, a repeat campaign will be conducted on campuses in the fall.

The student-led campaign is now under way at McMaster. Information about how to quit smoking, methods for quitting, resources available to students (including free Quit Kits')and sign-up sheets for students to book free, no-pressure, 30-minute, counselling appointments are available from various stations set up on campus. There are also smokerlyzers, a carbon monoxide monitor, which can use to measure the level of CO in the body.

The program includes an individualized computer assessment that can be taken by non-smokers, current smokers and ex-smokers to determine the “stage of change.” The survey asks questions about smoking habits, thoughts on quitting, confidence, coping with stress and other aspects related to the habit. Results are confidential and will only be given to participants.

Those interested in participating in this study are invited to sign up at the information stations or contact Radix at ext. 27619.

Dates, times and locations to visit the stations appear below:

Tuesday, April 4, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Togo Salmon Cafeteria

Wednesday, April 5, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Commons Marketplace

Thursday, April 6, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Commons Marketplace

Friday, April 7, 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Commons Marketplace