Concordia University Wisconsin students and faculty are taking steps to encourage tobacco users to kick the habit and protect their health.

Last month, more than a dozen students participated in the 2017 Kick Butts Day and handed out smoking cessation “kits,” or baggies filled with resources that would help an individual trying to stop smoking or using tobacco products. The nationwide cessation initiative, which was started by the American Cancer Society, occurs annually on the third Thursday in November.

The day’s efforts were made possible by a $15,000 grant, which Concordia received earlier this academic year from CVS Health Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and Truth Initiative. The three organizations awarded 126 colleges and universities in the U.S. a total of $1.2 million this year in order for the schools to advocate for and implement smoke- and tobacco-free campus policies.

Concordia currently prohibits smoking and the use of other tobacco products within most areas on campus. A university policy states that no one may use smoking, inhalant or vaping materials within the building or within 100 feet of the building. CUW leaders are encouraging continual educational efforts to promote tobacco cessation.

While numerous other institutions of higher learning are also working to create a culture shift surrounding the use of tobacco products on their campuses, Concordia’s educational efforts are unique in that they are student-driven, says Cathy Cero-Jaeger, a nursing faculty member and co-adviser for Concordia’s Tobacco Free Task Force.

“We’re addressing the problem peer-to-peer because students have a better handle on what is actually going on with one another, whether it is chew, smoking, e-cigarettes, hookahs and so on,” Cero-Jaeger says. “Clinically we know all forms of tobacco or nicotine are addictive and dangerous. Because we know that, this ‘let’s think about quitting’ message will be better received.”

Cero-Jaeger serves as a co-adviser of the task force with Michael Oldani, PhD, MS. The play a role in overseeing a student group, called Tobacco Free Through IPE (Interprofessional Education), which is made up of a handful of students who are pursuing degrees in nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychology, marketing and sports management. The team is responsible for planning events and initiatives like last month’s Kick Butts effort while building a campus culture of tobacco risk reduction and cessation.

Using a portion of the grant money received this year, faculty and student teams from nursing and pharmacy also became certified by the American Lung Association in cessation methods and counseling. The CUW teams successfully implemented the eight-week program, “Freedom from Smoking” this fall with a local business, where they met with a group of employees to help manage and encourage them to quit.

The CUW cessation teams are now ready to pilot a similar program on campus this spring for students, faculty and staff who want to start their journey to becoming tobacco free.

“The central goal of the Tobacco Free Taskforce is to create a positive culture of tobacco risk reduction and cessation on campus that is student-driven and non-punitive, said Michael Oldani, who is also a co-author of the CVS grant and director of Interprofessional Education at CUW. “Tobacco is a serious addiction with serious, preventable health risks, and we are blessed to have the capacity and resources at CUW to actually help people quit, even if it takes several attempts.”

“There’s no debate anymore in the medical community that the use of smoking and tobacco products is bad for you, and yet, so many people continue to be unaware of how highly addictive these tobacco products are,” says Cero-Jaeger, also a co-author of the grant. “We’re passionate about this because we recognize that students between the ages of 19 and 24 – the age of most of our students at Concordia – have become a huge target for the tobacco companies. If we can prevent students from falling victim at this age, however, research shows that the chances of them turning into habitual smokers is very slim.”

Students, faculty, and staff that are interested in the Tobacco Free through IPE movement on campus, as well as those interested in quitting tobacco can contact for more information.

— This story is written by Kali Thiel, director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at or 262-243-2149.

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