New signs advocating for the cessation of smoking have been placed in parking lots and doorways throughout campus. These signs are the newest addition in helping raise awareness of smoking addiction and to remind students, faculty and staff that Minnesota State is a smoke-, vape- and tobacco-free campus.
Associate Professor Mary Kramer applied for the Blue Earth County Statewide Health Improvement Partnership Grant to update the signs after she was required to give students and faculty surveys regarding smoking in 2019. The data found Minnesota State students were two times more likely to use tobacco than the national average.
Kramer said she believes Minnesota State’s rate is in part due to the rise of JUUL pods in 2016 and their marketing directed to youth and young adults.
“We have twice the national rate of students reporting regular vaping on campus which is a little concerning because tobacco affects all levels of achievement. The higher the usage of tobacco, the more we see grades being affected,” Kramer said.
Kramer has also been managing monthly online coaching sessions, free of charge. Kramer said she started the sessions to open the lines of communication to those who struggle with addiction, and to help them realize quitting is harder than it seems.
“By interviewing tobacco users on campus, we found that they’re ashamed and don’t always come forward and that shouldn’t be the case in a modern, progressive view of addiction,” Kramer said. “We want people to feel comfortable talking about it because then they’ll be more likely to get help.”
Kramer also helped construct “quit kits” that have been placed all around campus. These kits contain a variety of materials to try quitting including fidget tools, flavored toothpicks and a tip card with resources targeted to students.
The kits can be used to help students with their designated plan for quitting. Kramer said the first three to five days after quitting are the most intense, but it gets easier from there.
“Most people try quitting up to seven to 10 times, and they shouldn’t be discouraged for a slip-up,” Kramer said. “It’s not the end of the world, it’s actually a teaching moment.”
Since the signs have gone up and resources have been available to the public, Kramer has received feedback praising awareness on dangers of smoking.
“I have received nothing but positive comments and thank yous for those that may feel a certain legitimacy to smoking on the property,” Kramer said.
Kramer wants people to recognize smoking addiction is a social justice issue and resources exist for those looking to quit.
“I think what’s been amazing is the amount of students that support this and want to help others. I’m amazed at how many come forward and explain that they want help when it’s offered,” Kramer said. “It’s not a matter of people fighting it as much anymore.”
For those seeking additional resources to quit smoking, they can go on bit.ly/mavscanquit.
Header photo: These signs (pictured above) have been put in doorways and parking lots around campus to raise awareness on the hazards of smoking. (Dylan Engel/The Reporter)
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