University of Maine at Presque Isle officials held a press conference on Monday, June 3 at the Campus Center to officially announce a major effort to provide a healthy and productive work and learning environment for students, employees and visitors—its move to a Tobacco-Free Campus.
UMPI President Linda Schott was joined by members of the University Senate, Student Senate and the campus Health and Wellness Committee in providing details about UMPI becoming tobacco-free, an effort that has been years in the making.
“This is a major step for our University as we join many others in Maine who have reduced harm from tobacco use and secondhand smoke by establishing a tobacco-free campus,” President Linda Schott said. “Our goal is to provide a clean, safe and healthy environment for everyone who comes here, which helps to reduce health care costs and promote wellness and environmental responsibility. In our role as an institution of higher learning, it is important for us to educate and lead on this critical health issue.”
Late this spring, UMPI’s University Senate cast a historic vote in favor of UMPI becoming a Tobacco-Free Campus. The campus Health and Wellness Committee was tasked with drafting a Tobacco-Free Campus Policy. That policy went into effect on June 1, with an implementation phase taking place between June 1 and Sept. 30 to acclimate the campus and community to the change without penalty.
During the press conference, which was held on the first weekday after the policy went into effect, University officials marked the policy’s implementation with brief sentiments and a short ceremony that symbolized UMPI’s efforts to provide a healthy environment for everyone who comes to campus.
Linda Mastro, co-chair of UMPI’s Health and Wellness Committee, explained the work that was involved in going tobacco-free and why it was important for the institution to take this important step. John DeFelice, University Senate member, and Student Senate President Leah Rodriguez also discussed why their groups felt it was important to move forward on this effort and how they felt it will benefit campus. The event concluded with the ceremonial decommissioning of the smoking gazebo outside the Campus Center and the planting of a tree to repurpose the spot for oxygen creation.
According to the Center of Disease Control, tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the United States, and the U.S. Surgeon General reports that “there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke.”
To address these issues, UMPI’s Tobacco Free Campus Policy provides clear definition. No employee, student, contractor, vendor, or visitor will be allowed to use any tobacco products on campus. This includes the Houlton Higher Education Center, Skyway Housing Complex, any University owned or leased vehicles, and any privately owned or leased vehicles on University property. This policy applies to all tobacco products and non-FDA approved nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes. To view the new policy, please visit www.umpi.edu/tobacco-free.
Several changes will occur as part of this policy. New signage will be placed around campus—temporary signage has been posted already—all smoking gazebos will be removed, and a variety of resources designed to help individuals become tobacco-free will be promoted. Information will be conveyed to the campus community, incoming students, visitors, and the greater community in a variety of ways—from information tables to door hangers to business card-sized handouts—as the University strives to ensure that everyone is aware of, and observes, the new policy.
“I am very pleased that UMPI has taken this critical step toward greater health and well-being, and I look forward to working with our faculty, staff, students, and community members as we implement our Tobacco-Free Campus Policy over the next few months,” President Schott said.