Tarleton’s Tobacco-free policy promotes healthy living

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Alex Huerta/ The JTAC

The official memo from Chancellor John Sharp requests all A&M System universities and agencies to adopt a tobacco-free policy. Tarleton decided to install a policy on all Tarleton campuses that bans all forms of tobacco.

By Francisco Castro, Tarleton State University

From Stephenville, to Fort Worth, to Waco, Midlothian, and RELLIS – Bryan campuses, all forms of Tobacco have been banned from all Tarleton campuses. This ban began in Jan. 2020 and includes all forms of cigarettes, cigars, vapes, e-cigarettes, and various forms of chewing tobacco.

Following the official memo from The Texas A&M University System Chancellor, John Sharp, requesting all A&M System universities and agencies to adopt a tobacco-free policy, Tarleton administrators decided to install a policy on all Tarleton campuses that bans all forms of tobacco. This new policy will allow students, faculty, staff, and visitors to enter a campus that promotes the health and well-being of all by mitigating the health risks that come from using tobacco products.

According to Assistant Director of Substance Abuse & Violence Prevention Program, Caris Thetford, this policy can open up a way to educate students of the risks of long-term use of tobacco.

“As a society, when we think about substance abuse, often we’re thinking about illegal substances,” Thetford said. “I think we forget that sometimes, things that are perfectly legal and fairly easily available can be as problematic as some of those illicit substances. Nicotine is the most addictive substance and the most widely abused substance.

“Nicotine use… is linked to a whole host of physical ailments,” Thetford said.

“Most of these are things that it takes some time for [symptoms] to start showing up. By the time a person really is starting to see or feel some of those consequences, that addiction can have a really strong hold.”

These consequences caused by long-term nicotine use may include the yellowing of the teeth, bad breath, respiratory infections, degeneration of the lungs, pulmonary diseases, cardiopulmonary diseases, and an increase risk of getting cancer, among other consequences.

It is these rising health risks that has moved administrators to install this policy. Yet, this isn’t the first time a movement regarding going tobacco free has appeared on campus.

“In 2017, members of SGA did write a piece supporting Tarleton going tobacco free,” SGA President, Tyler Schuster said. Schuster also mentioned that the 2017 legislative piece was passed and allowed administrator to see that the Tarleton student body would like to see a policy that bans tobacco on the campus.

“[The new policy] isn’t anything new to Tarleton,” Schuster said. “This is something [the administration’s] been looking into and thinking about.”

Schuster makes mention that with the rising health cases of e-cigarettes, the new policy came at a good time.

“Tobacco has always been bad, people have always known it’s bad, but e-cigarettes have finally come full circle. People are seeing the effects they’re causing.”

Understanding this, Schuster and the SGA have chosen to follow in the footsteps of the members who passed the 2017 piece and support the initiative. Schuster understands that it will be a long process, but she is confident that Tarleton and the student body will not falter in becoming smoke free.

Alex Huerta/ The JTAC
Residential Leader Elijah Perry Imbong wears the official “Oscar P would be glad to see…” shirt that all residential leaders got encouraging the transition to a completely smoke, vape and tobacco free campus.

“Us as students, us as faculty and staff, and us as an institution are going to have to work towards [becoming tobacco free]. The university wants what is best for [its students]. If you don’t have good health, you can’t study well, you can’t become educated, and you can’t live a full life. Your health has to be the number one priority, and I hope students realize that’s why we’re doing this.”

For students at Tarleton, this policy acts as another set of expectations to follow. Any violations of the tobacco free policy are met with disciplinary actions by the Dean of Students Administrative Office. According to the Associate Dean of Students, Dana L. Moore, tobacco use violations are sent to her office in the form of an incident report. Once a report has been filed, the alleged student who violated the policy is given a notice within 24 hours to meet with Moore to discuss the incident. Moore also said that these reports regarding violations are always different. Every violation that comes across her desk has its nuances, or small differences to how an incident played out. Because every incident is different, so are the punishments for each violation. This is to ensure that students are given a fair punishment that coincides with the violation committed and the severity of it.

This new policy does come with good intentions, in raising the awareness of the dangers for tobacco and limiting them on the Tarleton campus. Any students who may be seeking support for addiction can see Thetford and her staff at counseling services.

“Counseling services is available to our students, as always,” Thetford said. “Working with students who are wanting to reduce or quit their use of a substance isn’t new to us. We would be happy to meet with students if this is something they feel like they can use some support with.”

Thetford also said that the counseling services are able to provide various options for students to seek recovery. “There’s no one single thing that works 100 percent for everyone when it comes to trying to reduce or quit use of any substance.” The methods the counseling services provide include cognitive behavioral therapy, building a mindfulness practice and having a series of motivational interviews.

“We have a number of things available… as our students work towards their goals of reducing or quitting [substance] use, whether it’s with nicotine or with something else,” Thetford said.

One treatment option that Counseling Services hopes to provide soon is Hypnotism. “There’s a fairly robust history of hypnosis around smoking sensation in particular. For some people, it works really well. There’s some research looking at [hypnosis] as a tool for disrupting smoking in particular” Thetford said.

With many treatment options and a full staff ready to assist, Counseling Services can help any student who needs that extra support to quit their addiction. “We’re here to help,” Thetford said. “If a student is struggling with [tobacco] use or …with any substance, they don’t have to fumble through that alone. That can be a big change. It can sometimes feel kind of daunting but they’re not the first person to go through it and they don’t have to do it alone. That’s what we’re here for. If our students are struggling, they’ve got folks who they can talk to.”

This story was originally published on JTAC News on February 12, 2020.