LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 5, 2017) — At the start of her college career, Jaclyn Perryman made a commitment to keeping the University of Kentucky’s campus a healthy place to study, live, work and breathe. Sometimes this pledge meant picking up cigarette butts, and other times it meant approaching a stranger.
Motivated to get involved with campus activities, Perryman joined the UK Tobacco-free Take Action Team her freshman year and started volunteering as a tobacco-free campus ambassador. She led the development of a tobacco-free volunteer program for students, staff and faculty members interested in coming together to improve the compliance of UK’s tobacco-free policy.
Tobacco-free ambassadors promote the campus-wide smoke-free policy and ensure compliance of the policy on campus. UK enacted its tobacco-free policy in 2009, prohibiting the use of traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes, snuff, chew, hookah and pipe smoking on all areas of UK’s campus, including indoors and outdoors. Ambassadors approach violators in an unthreatening manner, following a scripted technique that establishes a conversation and reminds people about the policy and resources available at UK. They can refer tobacco users to University Health Service, which offers low-cost nicotine replacement options or counseling to students, faculty and staff.
“We never apologize for the policy, but we can apologize for the situation. A lot of people go through things that are difficult, and we have to be understanding that it's an addiction at the end of the day,” Perryman said. “I would say 95 percent of people respond really positively to approaching. It used to be when I started out with this job, people weren’t as aware of the policy even existing, so that helped to spread awareness of it in general.”
When faced with rude or defensive responses from policy violators, ambassadors are trained to stay calm and be respectful, sticking to the scripted technique. Perryman explained their number one concern is addressing misconceptions about the use of e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, which can be harmful as well. Ambassadors also work to staff promotional events or speak to campus organizations about the policy, answering questions people might have about the policy or resources to quit tobacco use.
Ambassadors also collect and analyze data about tobacco use on campus. They hold an annual “cigarette butt collection” event where they pick up cigarette butts in four hotspots during three days in a row. Since the UK tobacco-free policy was enacted, the number of cigarettes found in hotspots has decreased. They collected around 30 cigarette butts this year, compared to thousands they collected in previous years.
“It's rewarding to see how much it has progressed. Hard data like that shows the efforts that me and the rest of the Tobacco-free Take Action Team have been doing for years, and that makes it all worth it at the end,” she said. “I feel like I've made a genuine and positive impact on campus. So, it’s really special for me to graduate in May and know that I left a lasting legacy to enrich the campus in a better way”.
Perryman has developed a passion for the Tobacco-free Task Force, especially because she realizes of the importance to help people who are interested in quitting.
“It made me immensely more knowledgeable about tobacco, so I feel very comfortable even just approaching family or friends and talking to them about how the choices that they are making to use tobacco are so harmful for their health,” Perryman said.
A double major in finance and economics, Perryman will move to Chicago after graduating this month. She will leave a legacy of achievements for the next tobacco-free ambassadors.
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