Student Affairs Committee
On January 31, 2002 the Rutgers University Senate Student Affairs Committee received a charge from the University Senate Executive Committee to evaluate the "Get off Your Butts" smoking prevention and cessation program and whether or not the University should endorse this program and put it into effect on all of its campuses (New Brunswick, Newark, and Camden). Additionally, the Student Affairs Committee was asked to explore the feasibility and appropriateness of banning cigarette sales on all of its campuses (New Brunswick, Camden and Newark). After reviewing the materials, several conclusions were reached about the program and its appropriateness to the cause of getting people, and in general students at Rutgers to stop smoking.
The "Get Off Your Butts" Campaign, originally proposed to President Francis Lawrence by the New Jersey Department of Health, has several parts to it. The first part is an active poster and slogan campaign designed to deter people from smoking using clever statements and pictures. The second part is a three-pronged approach to getting people who are already smokers, and "wanted to quit," some support. The three-pronged approach starts with a telephone service, which is named the "quitline." This is a free service for people to call for support and information. They could speak with trained professionals as well as support staff to help quitting smokers through tough times, and also to give out information to those who requested it. The second feature is a free online service called the "quitnet", which is designed again to provide the general public with information on smoking. It also allows smokers who want to quit smoking the ability to converse with a trained professional. Amongst the resources are a number of other features to help smokers through the tough times that are presented by the cessation of smoking. Once a smoker wants to stop smoking he/she could create a login name, and chart their progress. The most beneficial feature however seems to be the online network of support bulletin boards where smokers could post messages about themselves and respond to others. This seemed to harbor the support group environment that is critical in the successful cessation of smoking. Lastly, if none of these approaches works for a current smoker they can visit what are called "Quit Centers." At Quit Centers a smoker can talk with a trained professional face to face who will discuss different options with them. This is one of the best parts of the program, however it does cost money. It is stated in the material that the charge is based upon yearly income.
Findings, and Recommendations of the Committee
The findings of the Student Affairs Committee brought up many key issues of both concern and support. There were a few issues with the main charge, which was the proposed implementation of the "Get Off Your Butts" campaign. There were also many issues while exploring the feasibility, and appropriateness of removing cigarettes from all of the Rutgers University campuses. It seems that a group of other Universities has stopped selling cigarettes on their campuses as brought up by one of the members of the Student Affairs committee. There were a broad range of issues with this proposal and the findings of the Student Affairs committee represent both the voice of undergraduate and graduate students and parts of the administration.
The initial charge was the first to be debated and questioned, with several questions proposed. One of the main concerns stemmed from already existing smokers. Since the posters contain material that states that smoking is bad and presents the message that only "unintelligent people" smoke, it came across as somewhat offensive. The question was raised to propose to the New Jersey Department of health that instead of using this method of, "making fun of those who smoke," why not provide more factual information as to why smoking is bad and using that as the center for their stop smoking campaign. It seemed that there was a lack of facts and it would have been more beneficial to promote a host of factual posters and pamphlets rather than one that simply involves preying on the so called intellectual or social weakness of smokers. However, the Student affairs committee does unanimously support this portion of the campaign, stating that it may help deter people from smoking and may help push some of those who are thinking of quitting, quitting sooner. If the posters and information given were more factual in nature it might be a more positive and stronger approach, however the Student Affairs Committee does support that aspect of the program as/is.
The Committee feels that the most important aspect of this proposal by the Department of Health is the implementation of the quitnet, quitline and quitcenters. These three tools would be critical in helping people to stop smoking. The quintet provides a computer based online support and information system that helps the smoker stop. This service and the quitline are free to the public. These ideas are very beneficial to the student public and should be advertised on campus as per the recommendation of the Student Affairs Committee. The Committee was a bit skeptical of the quitcenters as they would most likely charge students for the service; however the committee also supports this, since some students may feel the need for a more personal environment.
The one concern that the committee has with the implementation of this program is that the students do not want to be pressured to stop smoking. The implementation of this program should be a subtle one in that posters and pamphlets should not displayed in overabundance. However, the program should be advertised enough so that students know it exists and know that there are additional options available other than the nicotine patch and other medications. This is a great and inexpensive way for students to stop smoking, but should not be a tool used to force students to quit smoking. This is the main concern of the committee, since present smokers do not want to be forced into anything that they do not want. This is the recommendation of the Student Affairs Committee.
The Student Affairs Committee also evaluated the appropriateness of the idea to stop cigarettes from being sold on Rutgers University campuses. The conclusion was that removing cigarettes would not prevent smokers from getting them. It would in no way help to stop smoking. It would only make cigarettes harder and more costly to obtain, and lead to an angry Student public. Some of the concerns of the committee were that cigarettes are a major part of campus center sales, that it makes it more convenient for students to buy them, however it allows them to buy them in single packs. It is the partial belief of the committee that if students had to go off campus to buy cigarettes they would buy them in bulk to prevent many trips to buy single packs. This would lead to an even more devastating situation for the smoker, as having more cigarettes to smoke would lead a more heavy smoking habit. It was the final conclusion that students living on Rutgers University campuses are of age to buy cigarettes. It is the choice of the student as to which path they will take, whether it is smoke free or not.
In conclusion, the Student Affairs Committee does endorse the "Get off your butts" campaign on all Rutgers University Campuses, but does not support the interest of the New Jersey Department of Health to force students to stop smoking. Instead we would recommend to the Department of Health that they considering taking a more factual, and informational approach to getting people to stop smoking. The Committee would like to see this program implemented, but within reason and with the approach of supporting those who want to quit smoking, but not becoming a burden to those who do not. Lastly, the committee does not support the cessation of cigarette sales on college campuses. It is the opinion of the committee that in the long this would lead to already present smokers, smoking more often. It is also the opinion of the committee that most students at Rutgers are of the age to legally purchase cigarettes and that they should not be prevented from doing so.
Rutgers University Senate Student Affairs Committee