Tobacco Ban Slated To Start In January

Emory University will implement a tobacco-free policy on January 1, 2012 — a semester later than the originally planned August start date — to allow for a longer transition period and more opportunities for communication regarding the policy.

Associate Vice President for Human Resources and Co-Head of the Task Force Theresa Milazzo said the task force, which has been spearheading the policy, altered its original implementation plans largely after feedback from multiple focus groups and other comments and concerns, particularly on the policy’s website.

With the added time, Milazzo wrote, comes more communication and educational opportunities in addition to more time for cessation efforts.

David Payne, director of communications, explained that the Jan. 1 start date was discussed first at a University Senate meeting last March.

Besides allowing for a smoother transition period, the later implementation date also allows time for incoming freshman to learn about and grow accustomed to the policy, Payne said.

“Nothing beats [freshmen] being on campus and seeing the University move towards the ban on tobacco,” he said, adding that freshmen were notified abou the policy during the admissions process.

To aid the transition period, the University decided to create hot spots — or designated smoking cigarettes zones around campus — as a response to feedback from the campus community.

The zones allow people to smoke cigarettes in certain areas on Emory property, Milazzo wrote.

She added that the task force determined hot spots after committee members surveyed the campus looking for locations where people generally use tobacco.

Task force members chose transitional smoking cigarettes zones based on their relative isolation to avoid the issue of second hand smoke, to ensure respect for personal safety of the smokers and to maintain a location within five minutes of major workplaces and out of respect for their commitment to responsibilities such as their work schedules.

They added that the needs of other University visitors in areas such as the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts, Emory Continuing Education and the Miller-Ward Alumni House also played a role in determining the location of hotspots because they are areas of Emory’s campus that attract numerous visitors each year.

Payne said that the transition period from a semi-tobacco free campus to a full-ban on discount cigarette online will likely last from January to August 2012.

Hot spots will appear on campus within the next several months, according to Payne.

However, by next fall, Payne said he does not anticipate hot spots will still be on campus because he expects a full ban to be implemented on the University campus by the beginning of that time.

In accordance with other national online cigarettes initiatives, Aetna, the University’s insurance plan for some of its students and faculty members, will add a $50 tobacco user surcharge to faculty and staff and their covered spouses or same sex partners enrolled in the University’s health plan to deter smokers and promote a healthier campus, Milazzo explained.

“The goal of the surcharge is to support the overall health and wellness of the University’s faculty and staff — to get people to stop using tobacco and live healthier, longer lives,” Milazzo wrote in an email to the Wheel. “Many employers are instituting a tobacco surcharge for the very same reason that Emory is — to discourage tobacco use by those covered under their medical plans. Further, the surcharge makes a statement that tobacco use is not risk free and those that engage in it should be aggressively encouraged to cease its use.”
Payne added that Emory is not “an outlier” compared to other health-care systems.

He explained that the surcharge measure will put Emory “in a consistent position with many [health] systems in Atlanta,” which also deter smokers by adding a certain amount to the charges on their insurance policy.

The University sought advice from its peer institutions — such as Washington University in St. Louis and the University of North Carolina — which have are farther along in enacting similar tobacco-related policies, according to Payne.

“They generally say implementation is not as difficult as anticipated and we are hopeful that will be the case here too,” he said.

Payne explained that although the University will extend the expected time frame to implement the new policy, the gist of the tobacco ban will remain the same, retain its non-punitive measures for noncompliance and will remain community enforced.

In the meantime, the task force will continue its focus on communications, data and research, facilities, education and cessation, policies and enforcement, patient impact and alumni and visitor impact.

“Emory is acting within the emerging trend of policy in higher education,” Payne said.

Payne expects that within a year of implementing the tobacco policy, the task force will evaluate the efficacy of the tobacco policy on campus.