Dillard students may finally get to breathe thanks to the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living (TFL) and the Louisiana Public Health Institute, who funded a campaign to have a 100 percent smoke-free campus. The “Louisiana Smoke-Free Act” prohibits smoking in most public places and workplaces. The act passed January 1, 2007, lowers the dangerous effects of secondhand smoke and protects the right of citizens to breathe clean air.
Dillard University’s Smoke-Free Campus Initiative engages students, faculty, staff and community members in an effort to reduce the effects of tobacco use. The school received a grant of $100,000 in 2005, and has received an additional $25,000 due to an extended wait period of rebuilding. The initiative kicked off in the beginning of the fall semester during freshman orientation.
In a survey given to 274 freshmen and returning students, more than 95 percent stated that they believe secondhand smoke is dangerous to their health. When asked if they had ever tried tobacco products, 75 percent answered ‘yes.’ Sixty-seven percent said they did not know the difference between menthol and regular cigarettes or light and ultra light cigarettes. One third of the students did not know about the benefits of quitting. Currently, around 15 percent of students smoke cigarettes.
“This program has three main goals,” said Wodajo Welldaregay, director of the campaign and assistant professor of public health, “to prevent initiation of tobacco use, help those who are already using tobacco to quit, and further strengthen the campus smoking policy.”
The Dillard campus smoking policy assures that students, faculty, and staff are not allowed to smoke in the building on the campus. The avenue of the oaks and all other outside surroundings is still smoke accessible. Although only a small amount of students smoke cigarettes and other tobacco products, other students are irritated by the secondhand smoke.
“Sometimes I just want to walk to class without smoke hitting my face and know that I’m free from the risk of secondhand smoke,” said Alexis Wallace, a junior psychology major from Atlanta, Ga.
Other students say they feel as if what little rights they have will soon be taken away from them.
“Since I’m outside, it’s my right to smoke on campus outside,” said Emile Evans III, a freshman business management major from New Orleans. “I respect the school for it’s policies but I deserve respect too.”
In a CORE survey, 35.5 percent of college students reported use of tobacco within the last 30 days. Each year, approximately 45,000 African Americans die from preventable, smoke-related disease. Although some die at an older age, the smoking habits usually begin for some at a young age or in college.
Tobacco Free Living partners with HBCUs other than Dillard to help African Americans quit at an early age. Grambling University, Xavier University and Southern University have also began a smoke-free initiative in an effort to make the campuses tobacco-free.
“We’re trying to help campuses come up with their own rules of smoking,” said Kesia Waters, regional coordinator of the Louisiana campaign. “Not too many universities in New Orleans can protect the outside areas of buildings from smoking.”
Working from the outside in, Louisiana is at work at protecting people from the risks of secondhand smoke. Dillard is not far behind as the campaign will continue on into the new school year.
We just want to let the students know the dangers of smoking and motivate others to quit said Welldaregay.
Flyers, posters, and ads have been posted, pamphlets passed out and seminars conducted. Recently, during the first week in March, the school held a smoke-free seminar, in which, representatives from the American Cancer Society, also a partner of TFL, discussed the negative effects of tobacco and the positive effects of quitting.
The Smoke Free Campus Initiative will continue to run throughout the school year in hopes of promoting clean air throughout the avenue of the oaks.