UofSC becomes tobacco-free campus in 2014

As of Jan. 1, the University of South Carolina Columbia campus is tobacco-free, meaning tobacco use is prohibited on all university property.

To help students, faculty and staff comply with the new policy, Campus Wellness is offering a variety of ways to kick the tobacco habit or at least manage tobacco cravings while on campus.

“We recognize that tobacco is an addiction. It’s not the sort of a habit people can just drop,” says Marguerite O’Brien, director of Campus Wellness. “We want our faculty and staff to understand that we are here to support them whether they wish to quit – and this may be giving them incentive to do so – or they need to figure out how to manage their cravings while they are at work.”

O’Brien recommends that supervisors proactively approach their employees who use tobacco to find out what the employees need to help them comply with the new policy.

“For some of our faculty and staff, it might be an uncomfortable conversation for them to bring up on their own to their supervisor,” she says. “If I were a smoker, I might not feel comfortable saying to my boss, ‘I know this tobacco ban is in place and I’m really worried about my ability, a) to quit or b) to get through a day without a cigarette. Can you help me?’ ”

The university has banned tobacco use within 25 feet of buildings and outdoor seating areas since 2006. But the expansion of the policy prohibits tobacco use even in personal cars parked in university-owned parking lots and garages, including those for sporting events. The ban includes all smoked tobacco products, such as cigarettes and cigars, as well as smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes, which are considered a tobacco product by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and can create confusion because they look and smell like regular cigarettes.

For those who are ready to quit, the university is offering a number of free and low-cost resources to help. For a complete listing, visit the smoking cessation website.

“We are in no way intending to be punitive or hide behind trees, find people smoking and get them in trouble,” O’Brien says. “We also want to prevent students from starting to smoke.”

On a recent health assessment survey, 13 percent of USC students reported being smokers, while 6 percent of faculty and staff members said they are smokers.

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The Tobacco Free USC website has a wealth of information about the evolution of the tobacco ban, how to address someone using tobacco on campus as well as the wording of the official policy.

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