Students at the Alpert Medical School are breathing easy after the school’s administration approved a ban on tobacco products on the school’s premises this summer.
The ban — which covers all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes — was a “no-brainer,” said Kris Cambra, director of biomedical communications. The Med School’s purpose is to train health professionals, so “it just kind of makes sense when you break it down,” she added.
Medical students began advocating for a tobacco-free campus in the fall of 2013, when Jack Elias began his tenure as dean of medicine and biological sciences. A pulmonary doctor, Elias has a strong conviction that tobacco use should be prevented, he said.
“I’ve spent a good deal of my life treating people suffering from consequences of tobacco,” Elias said.
Brittany Katz MD’16, who initiated the tobacco-free initiative with Zachary Marcus MD’16, became passionate about the issue through years of volunteering with the American Cancer Society, she said.
The duo heard about an initiative from the Rhode Island Department of Health to make all Rhode Island schools tobacco-free, and they decided to try to get Brown involved. The Med School administration was immediately receptive to the idea, Katz added.
Before implementing the ban, representatives from the Med School met with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Rhode Island Department of Health to discuss the feasibility and implications of a tobacco ban, Cambra said. The government officials recommended that the Med School seek the opinions of students, faculty members and staff members about tobacco use on campus. The school released a five-question survey, which revealed that medical students were overwhelmingly favored a tobacco-free campus, Cambra added.
In the spring of 2014, the Med School hosted a statewide symposium on tobacco-free college campuses, which brought several representatives from those campuses to Providence to discuss the benefits of a ban and the difficulties of putting such a measure into effect, Cambra said.
Finally, after officially making the tobacco ban a part of the Med School’s regulations, facilities workers placed signs across campus notifying people of the restriction on tobacco, Cambra said.
School officials have received little to no negative feedback on the ban, Elias said. While the school does not plan to issue fines to violators, they will be asked to stop using tobacco while on the premises, Cambra added.
In addition to the campus ban, several resources — including QuitWithBrown.org — are aimed at helping people stop using tobacco, Katz said. A phone line also exists for smokers struggling to quit, she added.
While there was additional discussion about implementing a tobacco ban on Brown’s undergraduate campus, it would involve a “more extensive process” and could face strong push back from a larger contingent of smokers on the campus, Katz said.
A previous version of this article misidentified a quit line website other than QuitWithBrown.org. The Herald regrets the error.