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New data will shape efforts to curb smoking

August 23, 2016

Give up the habit.

The best approach to tobacco use is still the simplest: Quit!

IUPUI remains a tobacco-free campus, and the Office of Health and Wellness Promotion plans to keep the smoking-cessation efforts going in the new academic year.

But this year, director Shawnte Elbert and her team have data that will help them focus on how better to help the campus community, particularly students, give up smoking. They can use results from the statewide 2016 Indiana College Substance Use Survey to guide their decisions. The survey includes information gleaned in part from IUPUI students to help them work with the Division of Student Affairs to deal with those programs that focus on student behaviors as part of campus life.

The data provides specifics to update and implement plans to counter the challenges related to tobacco use, either through cigarettes, cigars, hookahs and water pipes or electronic vapor products, a goal shared by Indiana University as a smoke-free university. The electronic vapor products were added to IUPUI's tobacco-free policy last year, according to members of Health and Wellness Promotion, and information from sources such as the student survey may lead IUPUI to adopt other changes.

The statewide survey invited 2,500 IUPUI students to participate, and 571 of them took advantage of the opportunity. The results include information about tobacco products but also offer insight into the extent of challenges related to issues including the use and abuse of alcohol, prescription medications, marijuana and other items.

According to Eric Teske, the assistant director of substance abuse prevention for Health and Wellness Promotion, the survey indicated IUPUI students were "less likely than students from other campuses to smoke cigarettes or chew smokeless tobacco," although statistically, the campus was above the state average in tobacco use through electronic vapor products or hookahs.

Elbert expects the various campus committees who take part in smoking-cessation efforts at IUPUI to utilize the survey results as a resource for establishing programs and goals for the campus. She remains as determined to help people kick the tobacco habit as she was during the 2015-16 academic year.

One encouraging note that Teske cited from the survey is a trend toward lower usage rates for IUPUI students. "In 2010, 17.2 percent of IUPUI students reported smoking cigarettes, and 8.2 percent smoked cigars," Teske said. By the time of the 2016 survey, though, cigarette use was down to 11.8 percent, and cigar smoking was at 7.7 percent.

Elbert agreed that the survey results will help provide useful guidelines for anti-tobacco efforts, giving the team a better idea about the products and populations on which they need to focus.

Note: This story is part of an ongoing series highlighting IUPUI's Strategic Plan initiatives.

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