Pharmacy students demand smoke-free campus

Posted: 4/27/2011

From Chicago Flame:

A group of students from the College of Pharmacy are working with the Respiratory Health Association and the Chicago Tobacco Prevention Project to transform the UIC Medical Center (UIMC) into a smoke-free campus.

Students and faculty from the College of Pharmacy have signed petitions requesting a smoke-free campus. Last Friday, they presented the petition to the Dean of Pharmacy, Dr. Steven Swanson.

UIC's Medical Center is one of the only hospitals in the city that has yet to implement the policy and procedures of a smoke free campus. Over 2,400 state hospitals and clinics have tobacco-free campus grounds including the University of Chicago, Rush University, Stroger Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Over 466 colleges and universities nation-wide have a 100% smoke-free policy.

"The University of Illinois College of Pharmacy is ready to partner with the University of Illinois hospital and outpatient clinics and the Colleges of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health to advocate a tobacco-free campus," said Doctor of Pharmacy candidate Colleen Murray.

The push for a smoke-free campus initiative is led by Dr. Lori Wilken, who has run the Smoking Cessation Clinic for the past 14 years. Wilken meets with patients individually to treat them for tobacco dependence with medication and behavioral changes.

Wilken has also taught the Smoking Cessation elective course, a 15-week course where she teaches second and third year pharmacy students about tobacco dependence, since 2003. Dr. Sandy Sung is the co-coordinator of the class.

"Tobacco dependence is as addictive as heroin or cocaine and more addictive than alcohol," said Wilken. "A lot of the time people receive treatment for those other addictions while people think smokers should just quit. However, smoking is so addictive that medications double the chances of someone being successful at stopping smoking.

"A lot of the medications for stopping smoking are over the counter, so a pharmacist may be the only person who ever talks to a person about stopping smoking," Wilken added.

One of the pharmacy students in the group, Liz Sullivan, elaborated on Wilken's point by saying that pharmacists are often more accessible than physicians.

"They're so approachable," said Sullivan. "You don't have to go through people to get to see the healthcare professional; they're right there, you can walk up and talk to them."

Wilken's group of pharmacy students expressed their hope that once they gain more involvement and support from the other medical colleges they can reach across to the other campuses as well.

Sung said that once the Medical College is smoke-free, they hope to reach across to the undergrad campuses on the East Side to make the entire campus smoke-free. She also said that as healthcare providers, they have a responsibility to set an example for their patients.

The group has received some backlash for their efforts. Some have said that psychiatric patients at the Medical Center need to smoke on campus because many of these patients smoke cigarettes in order to cope with their illnesses. Many psychiatric centers still reward their patients with smoke breaks.

Others have told Wilken that it is impossible to force anyone to quit smoking.

However, Wilken said that the initiative is not about forcing individuals to quit smoking, and pharmacy student Leia Roeges agrees.

"I think it's more for those who are willing to quit than those who want to keep smoking. Of course, ideal world, we would love for everybody to quit smoking, but we're not here trying to tell anyone what to do," said Roeges. "We're only here to help support those who are trying to make those life changes. I think those people who really do want to go smoke, they still have the opportunity to find those places; it's just helping those who are trying to quit."

Original here.