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Tobacco-Free Campus: A Growing Trend in Wisconsin

PHOTO: Kathy Staats
PHOTO: Kathy Staats
October 15, 2012

BROOKFIELD - Nearly 60 campuses of institutions of higher learning in Wisconsin have gone tobacco-free, and a summit meeting in Madison Oct. 30 may result in more campuses joining the ranks. The summit is free and open to student leaders and administrators at technical schools, colleges and universities. Registration can be done online through a link at www.lungwi.org.

Kathy Staats is the Wisconsin program coordinator for Spark, an anti-tobacco effort that is teaming with the American Lung Association to increase the number of tobacco-free campuses. Staats says it's important to reach people while they are young.

"The U.S. Surgeon General's report that came out this past spring noted that 99 percent of tobacco users start before the age of 25. So, it's absolutely imperative to get these college-age students in an environment that's healthy, and to keep them away from the tobacco industry that's targeting its products at them."

Staats says there are two purposes for the summit.

"First of all, new schools will be educated about the benefits of a tobacco-free campus and the process they can take to get there. Also, schools that have already passed tobacco-free campus policies or are in the process of it will be able to share their experiences with these new schools."

According to the American Lung Association, tobacco-related diseases are the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., and each year these diseases claim the lives of over 7,000 Wisconsinites.

Staats says the tobacco-free campus is "absolutely" the wave of the future.

"Already, more than 600 campuses around the country have passed tobacco-free campus policies. Campuses absolutely deserve to be a place where students can experience a healthy environment, so it is definitely the future of public health."

Campuses that go tobacco-free also have policies that prohibit the sale of any kind of tobacco product on campus and must refuse to accept funding from tobacco companies.

Online registration for the Oct. 30 summit is available at www.lungwi.org.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI