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Stellenbosch University's medical faculty to become smoke/ tobacco-free zone

From the 1st of January, 2019, Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) Tygerberg Campus will be declared a smoke- and tobacco-free campus.

This means that no smoking or the use of any tobacco product (including e-cigarettes or hookah pipes) will be allowed anywhere on campus.

The faculty will instead provide nicotine-replacement therapy and other proven interventions to help smokers quit or manage their cravings during their time on campus.

It's all part of the faculty's strategy to tackle the public health concern of smoking head-on.

“In our strategic plan, the Faculty commits itself to the health and wellness of its staff and students. By making the campus a smoke- and tobacco-free space, we are creating a healthy and safe environment for everyone," FMHS Dean, Professor Jimmy Volmink announced.

According to Professor Nico Gey van Pittius, Vice-Dean: Research and member of the FHMS Tobacco-Free Campus Committee, tobacco harms both smokers and non-smokers, as well as the environment. “It is a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of death, including various types of cancer, heart disease, respiratory infections and strokes. It increases medical costs, decreases productivity, and on average smokers die 10 years earlier than non-smokers."

The new regulations will see the FMHS become the country's first entirely smoke- and tobacco-free campus. However, in recent years, there has been a growing trend internationally at other institutions, with more than 2 000 smoke-free campuses in the US alone.

The use of any and all tobacco products will be prohibited on the entire campus, including all buildings, outdoor areas, residences and vehicles parked on the property.

“The Faculty opted not to allocate any designated smoking areas on the campus grounds. Research shows that allowing people to smoke in certain areas undermines tobacco-free policies, and campuses with full smoke-free policies have reported fewer problems with compliance than those with designated smoking areas," said Gey van Pittius.

Instead, the faculty will allocate the money it would have spent on the construction of smoking shelters to assist staff members and students who want to quit smoking.

The faculty will also provide smoking cessation support, including medication and nicotine-replacement therapy, materials and counselling through Campus Health Services to staff members or students who would like to quit smoking, or need help controlling their cravings."

"By making the Tygerberg campus a smoke- and tobacco-free campus we are being and becoming the change agents in society and are standing for what we believe is right," said Gey van Pittius.

This article appeared in The Cape Times newspaper on August 16, 2018

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