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Expert health educators on campus to help smokers quit with resources

The average Mills College student has been called many things: strong woman, proud woman, empowered woman. But what about smoking woman? Whether they are smokers before attending Mills or they take their first puffs here on campus, smoking is certainly common among many students.

Yet organizers for Kaiser’s campus Student Health Center Smoking Cessation Resources program, in partnership with expert health educators, are working to make quitting feasible for those who want to. Programs offered by the health center include individual counseling sessions, support groups and workshops.

Although these programs were officially implemented last fall, their existence came as a surprise to some students.

“I didn’t even know there was a program here at Mills for smokers. I think it’s good that we have one, but the fact that no one knows about it is a problem,” said Jessica Tang, a first-year and non-smoker. “I also think that this program won’t really accomplish much.”

Tang’s skepticism may not be unwarranted. Will smokers continue to smoke — and do they need or want help? Anna Corson, a first-year and smoker, doesn’t.

“I wouldn’t take advantage of the program. I can quit anytime I want,” she said.

According to Director of Wellness and Community Outreach Kim Baranek, the campus Wellness Advisory Board, a council of eight students, will survey the Mills population in the upcoming months to assess their wellness needs.

“We can’t tell people to just not do something. We’ve got to give them another alternative,” she said. “Basic information and resources available to students are still not known, so it’s going to take a little longer and more promotion for specific programs to surface.”

Sarah Thomas, a health educator who works with the health center, said she is dedicated to supporting smokers who want to quit.

“There needs to be a smoking policy; it’s on all of our radars. We at Kaiser recognize that smoking is really bad for your health and we want to make sure that all our patients know that, as an organization and supporters of healthy behavior, we will and can help,” she said.

The College’s policy stipulates smoking is prohibited in all indoor spaces, within 30 feet of any building entrance or window, in College-owned cars or golf carts and at outdoor public meeting spaces such as Adams Plaza.

Baranek said it was important to educate students about campus smoking policies and why they should adhere to them. She said it is important for all Mills students to know that, with or without Kaiser’s health insurance, the Student Health Center is open and free to them. Meetings with specialists like Thomas are always an option.

At the College’s most recent community meeting March 31, Residence Director Adrienne Slack said the College’s smoking policy needs to be made clearer. She said students often don’t know how far 30 feet from a building is, which makes enforcing the policy difficult. Plus, Slack said because ashtrays are located right outside dorm entrances, it sends a mixed message.

Vice President of Operations Renee Jadushlever said it was a problem she’s aware of, and has been discussing with Facilities staff the option of issuing a memo the campus community. The College last sent a campus-wide memo reminding the community of its smoking policy last September.

Regardless of whether or not smokers at Mills want to quit, some non-smokers feel the bottom line is respect.

“I think smokers need to be more aware and considerate about where they smoke,” said Tang, who said she is very sensitive to the smell of smoke.