Yale's Colleges Against Cancer Chapter Pushes School to Provide Smoking Cessation Programs
This article was written by Yale University student Pooja Yerramilli, who is a Colleges Against Cancer committee member at the Connecticut school.
Over the past several weeks, debates over a potential campus-wide smoking ban have dominated newspaper headlines and public discourse at Yale University. Although student interest in the topic has suddenly peaked, smoking policies at Yale have been scrutinized and deliberated for more than one year. The Yale Chapter of Colleges Against Cancer has been actively involved in these discussions with the hopes of improving the health of the Yale community.
The Tobacco Free Yale Workgroup was formed last year in attempt to address the severe public health concerns posed by tobacco consumption on campus. The committee is composed of deans of the graduate and undergraduate schools, representatives of the Yale staff, and doctors and administrators affiliated with Yale HEALTH. Since its inception, the group has discussed the feasibility of its principle aim – to institute a partial to full smoking ban.
While Yale CAC has supported this goal, the organization has researched and noted that this policy may not be achieved without other considerations. Specifically, the CAC Advocacy team has brought the absence of affordable smoking cessation treatment options available through Yale HEALTH to the attention of the workgroup.
In an effort to combat the smoking pandemic and its repercussions, many universities throughout the United States have adopted health plans that subsidize smoking cessation treatment. These institutions have supplied free nicotine replacement therapy, highly subsidized prescription medications, individualized counseling, and support groups. Yale’s programs pale in comparison. The Yale HEALTH website directs smokers to organizations outside Yale University for information and counseling. Furthermore, Yale HEALTH does not provide coverage for OTC smoking cessation treatments, and offers no comprehensive “Quit programs.” As smoking is prevalent within the Yale staff, unaffordable or otherwise inaccessible treatments have deterred many smokers from attempting to quit.
Initially, Yale CAC faced opposition to the idea of expanding Yale HEALTH. The main concerns were the costs of such programs. After a year of debating with workgroup members and after obtaining approximately four hundred student signatures on a petition supporting the establishment and subsidization of smoking cessation programs, the advocacy team finally convinced the administration that such policy changes are, in fact, necessary. Thus, this year, the group has recognized the necessity of this additional treatment options. Smoking cessation treatment discussions and questions are now regularly included in discussions and surveys.
This semester, the Yale CAC advocacy team is taking a more active role in the workgroup. The primary objective is to push the workgroup to take action on the topics discussed for the past year, including the expansion of Yale HEALTH. To this end, Yale CAC has published opinion editorials and is planning events and panels in attempt to clarify the issues. The ultimate belief of the advocacy team is that in the long run, the creation of smoking cessation packages and counseling programs will reduce the costs of treatment for smoking-related health issues and save lives.