Alex Restaino and Mike Van Oever were two of the CUW students involved in a campus wide tobacco cessation effort on Thursday, April 26.Alex Restaino and Mike Van Oever were two of the CUW students involved in a campus wide tobacco cessation effort on Thursday, April 26.

The subject of tobacco use and its dire health effects hits close to home for Mike Van Oever.

Concordia's Smoke Free Through IPE task force encourages others to kick the habit.The Concordia University Wisconsin student, who is set to graduate in 2019 with his degree in physical therapy, says his brother began smoking at age 16. Nine years later, the addiction has set in, and even though his brother wants to quit it’s become more difficult for him to kick the habit.

It’s a big part of why Van Oever joined nearly two dozen other Concordia students who, on Thursday, April 26, led an effort to inform the campus about the dangers of tobacco use and encourage users to take the step towards quitting.

“I know from having these discussions with my brother that people can get defensive about it, because they know it’s wrong,” Van Oever said Thursday. “I try to address it with tact though. Eventually, I’m going to get my brother to stop. It’s too important for him not to. It’s a matter of his health.”

Throughout the day on Thursday, students canvassed the campus in shifts, picking up the remnants of tobacco use. Meanwhile, other volunteers manned a table outside the cafeteria that shared information about the importance of tobacco cessation and put on display the cigarette butts and other tobacco products the group collected – two large vases’ full. The student volunteers also invited individuals to turn in their tobacco/nicotine-releated paraphernalia in exchange for a chance to win Brewers tickets.

The group, which is led by Assistant Professor of Nursing Cathy Cero-Jaeger and Director of Interprofessional Education Mike Oldani, PhD, MS, is called Tobacco Free Through IPE (interprofessional education). It’s made up of about 20 students who are studying physical therapy, pharmacy, occupational therapy, nursing, psychology, business, and social work at Concordia.

Last fall, Concordia received a $15,000 grant from CVS health Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and Truth Initiative to make strides towards turning Concordia into a tobacco-free campus. The grant has also supported CUW faculty and students to undergo cessation counseling training through the American Lung Association. Concordia can now offer cessation sessions for small groups for both the campus and local community. The Tobacco Free Through IPE task force has picked up the charge by leading research efforts, delivering presentations, and hosting initiatives like Thursday’s effort.

Because students between the ages of 19 and 24 are a target demographic for tobacco companies’ advertising, a university campus is an important audience for the task force to target with their messaging, says Cero-Jaeger.

“The research unequivocally shows how highly addictive these substances are,” says Cero-Jaeger. “If we can prevent students from falling victim at this age, then the chances of them turning into habitual tobacco users is very slim.”

— 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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