Tobacco-free 'Take Action! Ambassadors' Take Health to Heart at UK
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 14, 2014) – February is Heart Month and the University of Kentucky takes health to heart through its Tobacco-free policy in effect for over four years. What's new on campus is the addition of five part-time ambassadors who put a face on UK's Tobacco-free (TF) policy.
A typical day for the ambassadors involves scanning the campus, especially the known 'hot spots,' for policy violators. They observe, approach, and report violators in groups of two at different times of the day and evening, Monday through Friday, with the goal of improving compliance.
"The ambassadors are there to remind people in a positive and compassionate way about the policy and to offer support," said Mindy Ickes, director of Tobacco-free Take Action! (TFTA!).
Ickes, who also coordinates ambassador training, said that ambassadors are taught to fully understand UK's tobacco-free policy including campus boundaries and how to approach violators of the policy using scripting techniques. They are taught how to document and report violators of the policy and collect data for evaluation. Ambassadors also assess signage and make sure there are an adequate number of tobacco-freepolicy brochures on campus. In addition, they promote available tobacco treatment resources, including low-cost nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) options sold in campus stores and pharmacies so that tobacco users can feel more comfortable while on campus.
UK's tobacco-freepolicy strictly prohibits cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, snuff, snus, water pipes or hookah, pipes, etc. anywhere on university property, including all campus grounds inside and out, streets, sidewalks, parking areas, vehicles, and student housing. E-cigarettes are covered under the policy because they are not an approved method of quitting and they emit chemicals, nicotine, and particles into the air.
Ellen Hahn, supervisor of TFTA! Ambassadors and director of the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy at the UK College of Nursing, says promoting compliance with the tobacco-free policy is a priority.
"UK has documented a four-fold increase in attempts to quit tobacco since the tobacco- took effect in November 2009. This means healthier employees, sponsored dependents, and students," she said.
"We are proud of our TFTA! Ambassadors who help promote compliance and report violators. Since adding ambassadors to the tobacco-free campus effort in April 2012, we have seen a 35 percent reduction in cigarette butts on campus."
The TFTA! Ambassadors represent a cross section of the UK community and have varying reasons that motivate them to promote UK's tobacco-free policy. They are:
Adaeze Aroh, a master's in Public Health student from Nigeria: "I am passionate about TFTA! Because I have a great interest in health policies, being an ambassador affords me the opportunity of getting experience in the health policy implementation process, the different challenges that come with it, and how they are handled. Most importantly, I am acting as an agent of change and a promoter of healthy environments."
Amy Carr, a Kinesiology major with a minor in Health Promotion, from Cleveland, Ohio: “I am an active member of Alpha Omicron Pi sorority and have served as their Health and Wellness Chair since Fall 2012. Helping people, especially those on the University of Kentucky’s campus, be able to live healthier and happier lives is something that I enjoy doing. I am glad to be an Ambassador of the TFTA! team, so I can make a larger impact on helping to improve the health within UK’s community. I plan on continuing to help others with their health after I graduate from the University of Kentucky. My plans include attending graduate school to study occupational therapy. My dream job involves being an occupational therapist who uses animal-assisted therapy to help people progress within their therapy in a more enjoyable and comfortable environment.”
Nate Dillon, a junior Political Science major from Flemingsburg, Ky.:
"I wanted to join the TFTA! program for two reasons: I was looking for a change of pace in my work life but still wanted to contribute to the campus; and I have strong feelings about tobacco use, stemming back to my childhood in a region dominated by the tobacco industry, where friends and family members were frequent users. I've always wanted to do something about tobacco use in Kentucky. With UK's tobacco-free policy and the need for ambassadors to promote the policy, this position gives me an opportunity to really do something about tobacco use. I am encouraged knowing that we have the chance to help change a university of thousands of people for the better."
Rochelle Harp, a non-traditional junior elementary education major from Northern Kentucky: "I grew up in a home where my father smoked, and he still does to this day. My brother started smoking at the age of 13, and he still smokes 16 years later. I fear that growing up in secondhand smoke will one day affect me. I also fear daily for the health and wellbeing of my dad and brother as they continue to smoke. I am an ambassador because I support the policy and want to assist tobacco users to be comfortable on campus without the use of tobacco, as well as to answer their questions about the devastating and life changing effects that tobacco can have on them and others. Many students and employees are not aware of the resources UK offers to them to quit smoking. I am 100 percent in support of UK's tobacco-free policy, as I know it provides a healthy campus for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors.”
Jaclyn Perryman a finance and economics double major from Palatine, Ill.: "I hope to one day become a corporate attorney. I enjoy getting involved on campus through the Delta Delta Delta sorority, the Economics Society, and now, as a TFTA! Ambassador. I am very excited about this position because I believe UK’s tobacco-free policy is instrumental in maintaining a healthy and environmentally safe campus and community. I hope to make a difference on campus and help UK to be the best it can be."
To learn more about UK's TFTA! Ambassadors program, go to: www.uky.edu/TobaccoFree and follow on Twitter @UKTakeAction