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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Signs of Spring: Smoking on Campus

Have you ever sat in the quiet car of the train when somebody starts talking their head off on the phone? You sit there, you glare at the signs that indicate this is the quiet car, and you hope the loud person notices them.

This is basically what I do when I see people smoking on campus.  The hallmarks of this passive-aggressive behavior are ineffectiveness with a special emphasis on getting all bent out of shape.

That is why I was interested to hear from Linda Dunphy, director of University Health Services’ Health and Education Wellness Program, that she’s got a plan.

A plan to do what, exactly?

I mean, what is there to do?

Over the last several decades, UMass Boston has incrementally implemented non-smoking policies on campus. Having worked at the school for over 20 years, Dunphy remembers most of them. At first, there were no regulations at all—just courtesy. After a few decades of non-smokers walking through fogbanks of smoke in and out of doors, smoking was restricted to certain areas—areas inside buildings. Obviously that eventually went out the door, too. The next policy restricted smoking to outside only. Later, smoking was restricted to designated outdoor areas. Finally, in 2016, UMass Boston became an entirely smoke-free campus.

Except it didn’t. We all know smoking still happens around campus in many locations, plenty of which are very visible and public.

In effect, what is left to do is to reinforce the current policy. And that is what Linda Dunphy’s plan is all about.

I have to admit, my ideal plan would probably involve waving a wand from a distance, the effect of which would extinguish all cigarettes, like “Nox” (Yes, that is a Harry Potter reference, “Goblet of Fire”) or fly out of their hands, like “Expelliarmus” (“Chamber of Secrets”).

Alas! No such quick fix exists. But Dunphy’s tentative plan—which will be implemented next fall—provides students interested in reinforcing the current policy options that are, at least, better than the futile passive-aggressive one mentioned above. The plan is called a Student Communication Toolkit. The tools, like magic, are invisible, but, also like magic, can be powerful.

So what should you do next time you’re bursting to “avada kedavra” fellow students smoking on campus? Remember to SMOKE. Yes, SMOKE.

S: “Smile” Introduce yourself.

M: “Make” the assumption that the person doesn’t know the policy.

O: “Offer” resources for tobacco cessation. (or not—Dunphy says that’s fine).

K: “Kindly” remind the person of the tobacco-free policy.

E: “Enforce” the policy: Ask the person to stop using tobacco on campus.

Then…walk away.

And maybe this is the most important part. At least, it may be for anyone willing to do this in the first place. As I expressed to Dunphy myself, the confrontational nature of approaching a student, however blandly, to remind them about a policy that seems really obvious to you can be pretty intimidating. In response, Dunphy reiterated a few points:

1. Students are not obligated to do this. It’s totally voluntary.

2. Students are not necessarily telling their fellow students to quit. Stopping smoking at that moment and quitting smoking all together are two different things. Remembering this takes a lot of burden off of a student who may initiate this kind of interaction.

3. This interaction is all about just saying something and then letting it go. Don’t get attached to the outcome, Dunphy says. Just say what you’re going to say and keep walking.

But how is a smoking student going to respond to this? That’s what I want to know. Luckily, Dunphy practices what she preaches. She’s walked up to over 20 students in the last year, starting conversations by saying, “You probably didn’t know this, but…” And what happened? They put out their cigarettes. Everybody went on with their day. Did she give them a lecture? No. Tell them she was a health educator? Nope. Provide them with tobacco-cessation materials? I’m sure she was tempted to, but the answer is still no.

Although eager to work on this issue, Dunphy admits that getting students to stop smoking on campus and/or quitting altogether, though important to the Health and Education Wellness Program, does not make the top of the list. The top five issues students are struggling with the most are stress, work, anxiety, quality of sleep, and depression. In light of the fact that it is perceived as a coping mechanism for dealing with a variety of these issues, smoking is even harder to effectively address on campus. As a result of this, Dunphy notes, quitting smoking is an issue that often comes up later in life for adults.

If you are dealing with any of these issues, UMass Boston has many services to support you. Dunphy is one of them. She is happy to see anyone seeking support, and is located on the 2nd floor of the Quinn Building at University Health Services. It’s sort of a rabbit warren back there, but if you keep asking “Where is Linda Dunphy?” the nice people at various desks will help you find her (I know. That’s what I did.) You can also contact her at [email protected] with your health and wellness concerns.