A com­mittee charged with exploring a smoke-​​free campus policy hosted a town-​​hall meeting Tuesday night to field ques­tions from the North­eastern com­mu­nity and pro­vide updates on issues that have yielded sig­nif­i­cant feed­back. The com­mittee is expected to make final rec­om­men­da­tions later this spring.

In December, the uni­ver­sity announced it had con­vened a com­mittee com­prised of stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff to explore the pos­si­bility of imple­menting a smoke-​​free policy. The 10-​​member com­mittee is co-​​chaired by Terry Fulmer, dean of the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences, and John Auer­bach, director of the Insti­tute on Urban Health Research and Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Prac­tice in Bouvé’s Depart­ment of Health Sciences.

Tuesday’s open forum, held in West Vil­lage F, marked the second time this semester the com­mittee has held a public event to solicit feed­back. Sev­eral hun­dred com­ments have also been gath­ered through a ded­i­cated web­site and via email; the com­mittee is also seeking feed­back from the 1,100 cam­puses nation­wide that have already imple­mented some form of a smoke-​​free policy. The Fac­ulty Senate dis­cussed the topic at a meeting last month.

One of the most impor­tant things we as a com­mittee wanted to do was to make this process very inclu­sive and trans­parent,” Auer­bach said.

The first forum fea­tured a range of opin­ions from the student-​​dominated audi­ence. Tuesday’s town-​​hall meeting pro­vided a sim­ilar oppor­tu­nity for ques­tions and com­ments, and the audi­ence also lis­tened to updates on two issues in par­tic­ular that have been fea­tured promi­nently in feed­back thus far: smoking ces­sa­tion resources on campus and adher­ence to a poten­tial smoke-​​free policy.

Madeleine Estabrook, director of stu­dent health ser­vices, noted that stu­dents have access to many smoking ces­sa­tion resources through Uni­ver­sity Health and Coun­seling Ser­vices and the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Stu­dent Health Plan. She also high­lighted a new, evidence-​​based pro­gram launched in Feb­ruary called Ready to Quit!.

Coun­seling, nico­tine replace­ment therapy, and ces­sa­tion resources are also avail­able to benefits-​​eligible fac­ulty and staff through the Employee Assis­tance Pro­gram and their Blue Cross/​Blue Shield health­care plans, com­mittee mem­bers explained. Including smoking ces­sa­tion in the university’s upcoming Healthy You pro­gram­ming has also been discussed.

Later in the forum, Auer­bach intro­duced three students—Mikaela Elia, Leah Web­ster, and Jai­mini Patel—health sci­ences majors whose senior cap­stone projects focus on the smoke-​​free campus initiative.

Health sci­ences major Leah Web­ster dis­cussed trends related to social media feed­back as part of the smoke-​​free campus ini­tia­tive. She is working on this project for her senior capstone.

Elia, for her part, has ana­lyzed compliance-​​based methods at sev­eral other col­leges and found that suc­cessful pro­grams gen­er­ally have four common com­po­nents: com­mu­ni­ca­tion, edu­ca­tion, sig­nage, and a pos­i­tive rein­force­ment model. She noted the Uni­ver­sity of Kentucky’s “Three-​​T” model—tell, treat, and train—which has uti­lized a mix of social media, scripted mes­sages on how to approach people about the policy, a research fair, and clever marketing.

During the public response period, stu­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Health Dis­par­i­ties Stu­dent Col­lab­o­ra­tive and the Res­i­dent Stu­dent Asso­ci­a­tion read state­ments in sup­port of a smoke-​​free policy. Sev­eral other stu­dents asked ques­tions on a range of topics; one asked about cur­rent smoking policy sig­nage across campus, and another asked which areas of campus are public ways and would be exempt from a poten­tial ban.

In closing remarks, Auer­bach said the com­mittee would con­tinue its dis­cus­sions over the next 30 days and then draft a report with final rec­om­men­da­tions on a poten­tial smoke-​​free campus policy, which is expected to be released later this semester. The North­eastern com­mu­nity can weigh in by vis­iting the smoke-​​free ini­tia­tive web­site, tweeting with #NUsmoke­free, posting com­ments to the initiative’s Face­book page, and by emailing smokefreeinitiative@​neu.​edu.