BMCC—and all CUNY campuses—will be completely tobacco-free by September, 2012. As of now, smoking is prohibited in all CUNY buildings, but the new policy will prohibit cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products on outdoor lobbies and grounds, as well.
“We know the new tobacco policy will be challenging for the college community,” says Penny Jordan, a Registered Nurse and BMCC’s Director of Health Services, “and we want to support those who are trying to stop smoking, by providing them with smoking cessation aids, counseling, and other resources.”
The Student Health Services office has distributed NRTs [Nicotine Replacement Therapies] to about 200 students, and Department of Health representatives have helped them access free tobacco-cessation counseling in all five boroughs.
Jordan herself became a Tobacco Dependence Treatment Specialist through a week-long, CUNY-sponsored training at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey.
“They covered everything from types of smoking cessation aids available—Bupropion, Chantix, NRTs—to the neurobiology of tobacco addiction,” she says. “They also spoke about how to do motivational interviewing, facilitate groups, and handle folks who relapse.”
Clem’s Phlegm and Mr. Gross Mouth share the stage
At BMCC’s health fairs, Jordan promotes tobacco awareness and gives out cessation tools such as patches and gum.
A recent fair featured “Mr. Gross Mouth,” a larger-then-life model of teeth and gums ravaged by the effects of chewing tobacco—cancer of the gum, palate and tongue.
Sharing the limelight was an oversized jar, “Clem’s Phlegm,” containing a greenish-brown gel representing the amount of phlegm a smoker with COPD—Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease—would hack up in two weeks.
Students also viewed posters, and were surprised to learn that cigarettes contain ingredients such as arsenic and cyanide (poisons), formaldehyde (used to preserve bodies for burial), and ammonia.
“Once you add ammonia to tobacco, it increases the absorption rate of nicotine,” Jordan explains. “It hits that reward center of the brain, that much faster.”
Gaining knowledge is part of the tobacco cessation process, she says. “We want to give students tools they can pass on to their classmates.”
Citywide support for those who want to quit
The fair also presented staff from tobacco-cessation support centers, citywide.
Bienvenido Medrano, a Health Educator with Elmhurst Hospital Center, talked to students about cessation methods, and gave out nicotine patches.
“BMCC students can get two weeks worth of patches today,” he said, “then come to the hospital and sit with us one-on-one, for additional support and further treatment—completely free.”
Adam Steiner, SmokeFree Project Counselor with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) Community Center, leads groups for LGBT individuals and their allies, who want to quit smoking.
“Support is the biggest thing people need,” says Steiner. “There’s a lot of shame associated with smoking—wanting to quit, but can’t—and that shame perpetuates the smoking, even more.”
Janet Arroyo, Project Coordinator with the Manhattan Smoke-Free Partnership, adds that according to the American Lung Association, it often takes seven to 10 attempts to successfully quit smoking.
Will Wikle, a certified Tobacco Cessation Specialist and Nurse Practitioner at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, commented that, “BMCC students are still at the age where, if they stop smoking now, by the time they’re in their forties or fifties—when all cancer risk increases—they will have the risk level of a non-smoker. But the longer they continue to smoke past their twenties, the more likely they are to triple their chances of getting cancer later in life.”
Students help students quit
BMCC students can join committees and be part of BMCC’s efforts to publicize CUNY’s expanded tobacco policy on campus. They can even enter a poster and video contest—the deadline is December 14—spreading the word that BMCC will be tobacco free by September 2012.
Those interested in volunteering can contact Danny Ambrose, Student Life Specialist for Civic Responsibility and Student Development, at 212-220-5277.
Besides the leadership experience they get, says Ambrose, “students who are an active member of the Tobacco Cessation Implementation committee can include this volunteer opportunity on their co-curricular transcript,” a record of non-credit volunteer activities.