AUB campus turns smoke-free
The American University of Beirut has declared its campus a smoke-free zone, thus becoming among the first to do so in the Arab world.
Apart from a few designated areas, students, faculty, staff and visitors will not be allowed to smoke on campus anymore. In particular, the newly inaugurated Charles W. Hostler Student Center, which houses a health club, track and field, courtyards, and other facilities, has been declared an entirely smoke-free area at the University.
"Thankfully, the campus has become completely smoke-free -- an outcome that required the rigorous collaboration of a number of parties at the University," said Dr. Ghassan Hamadeh the head of Family Medicine and a member of the Tobacco Free Campus Initiative (TFCI).
"President John Waterbury also championed the initiative of making AUB campus smoke-free and supported the execution of the plan," he added.
In July 2000, the AUB Board of Deans (BOD) had passed a policy stipulating that all buildings on campus would become smoke-free, with the exception of private residences. Recognizing the health risks associated with firsthand and secondhand smoking, the AUB administration has been taking a number of measures since then to achieve that goal.
Hamadeh said the Wellness Program of the Environmental Health, Safety, and Risk Management began by addressing smoking cessation issues on campus and consequently implemented a full-fledged campaign to deal with the matter.
According to Jihad Makhoul, associate professor and acting chair of the Department of Health Behavior and Education of the Faculty of Health Sciences, the TFCI initiative was established and supported by the Committee on University Wellness. "TFCI is a group of people who believe that tobacco consumption is a problem on campus, especially now that tobacco companies are intensifying their advertising to youth in our region," she said. "We feel something should be done about smoking on campus to reduce the harmful effects both on smokers and others from secondhand smoke."
The idea originated in an early meeting of the Committee on University Wellness and the initiative received the support of the University Student Faculty Committee, the BOD, the Office of Student Affairs, and other administrative units, said Makhoul. "TFCI prepared a comprehensive plan in May 2007 to gradually spread the message about tobacco on campus, lay the groundwork through surveys and awareness activities, and advocate for change in policy," she added.
Makhoul also noted that some faculties were actually moving forward on their own to make their courtyards smoke free, that no smoking signs are already appearing on campus, and that a limited number of benches designated for smokers had been assigned. The smoking policy was modified as well to include defining what makes a smoke-free area on campus, proper safety precautions, restrictions on sale and advertisement of tobacco products on campus, and compliance and implementation of the smoking policy on campus.
An execution plan to enforce a smoke-free campus is in progress. In addition to spreading awareness and news regarding smoking hazards and the reasons why AUB should be a smoke-free campus, TFCI will start helping smokers through a smoking cessation program for those who wish to quit.
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