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Tobacco-Free Campus Initiative

On Monday, November 19, a press conference organized jointly by Başkent, Bilkent and Hacettepe Universities to introduce the three universities’ “Step-by-Step to a Tobacco-Free University” initiative was held at Hacettepe.

As the Bilkent community is aware, the initial moves toward a tobacco-free campus have already been implemented at our university, with areas where smoking is permitted being gradually phased out; the use of all tobacco products will be prohibited throughout the entire campus, including all outdoor spaces as well as indoor areas, effective September 1, 2022.

All three universities participating in the Tobacco-Free University initiative are committed to ending tobacco use on their campuses and hope to see their efforts duplicated at universities throughout the country, with the goal of safeguarding the health of current and future generations.

The rationale behind the initiative and further information regarding its implementation were provided in a press release handed out to attendees at the meeting. The text of the document, which was signed by the rectors of the three participating universities – Prof. Abdullah Atalar of Bilkent, Prof. Ali Haberal of Başkent and Prof. A. Haluk Özen of Hacettepe – is printed here:

In order to contribute to studies on the prevention of tobacco use – this being a leading cause of disease and death in our country – our three universities have joined together to work on determining what should be done in the short/medium term to achieve “Tobacco-Free” status. Such studies are among the requirements of the World Health Organization’s universal approach to tobacco control, defined by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, as well as Turkey’s Law No: 4207 On the Prevention and Control of the Hazards of Tobacco Products. The first article of the law clearly states that the objective is to protect individuals and also future generations from the hazards of tobacco products.

Given the purpose of our meeting, we would like to share some information with you:

  • Tobacco control encompasses encouraging individuals not to start tobacco use, convincing those who currently smoke to stop, and preventing passive exposure to tobacco smoke.
  • Tobacco use is an addictive behavior. Therefore, it is not accurate to perceive it as a “simple” behavior.
  • Some young people studying at universities start using tobacco during this time, while others have already started and continue to use tobacco in the university environment.
  • Cigarettes are the most commonly used/smoked tobacco product. However, students/young people also use other tobacco products/devices, including hookahs, electronic cigarettes, etc. We would here like to stress once again that all types of tobacco products are harmful and cause illness and death, and to note that any comparisons suggesting some tobacco products are “less harmful” are extremely misguided.
  • There is a need to conduct systematic and ongoing studies on controlling tobacco use at universities. The “Tobacco-Free University” approach is a set of policies and practices being adopted worldwide for this purpose. Among the basic reasons for their implementation are: the need to foster healthy lifestyle behaviors at universities; and the potential of everyone associated with a university, whether as a student or an employee, to model a tobacco-free lifestyle for society and the generations to come. Moreover, most universities conduct teaching and research in the areas of medical, social and/or behavioral science – areas whose main missions include the production of scientific data regarding health and its promotion, which entails prioritizing a tobacco-free lifestyle. Universities following this approach aim to end the use of tobacco in indoor and outdoor areas; forbid the sale of tobacco on campus; and provide help to those who wish to cease using tobacco. To elaborate further, for an institution to achieve “tobacco-free university” status, the following steps are to be taken:
    • Developing a tobacco control plan and program, and informing all segments of the university community about the process
    • Complete abolition of smoking areas on campus, with prior announcement of the effective date in this regard
    • Designation of a specified unit, office or committee to implement all tobacco control measures within the university
    • Conducting instructional and awareness activities to promote internalization of the tobacco-free university policy by all segments of the university community
    • Ensuring that cessation services are available to all who want to stop using tobacco

In addition to the above steps, monitoring and evaluation of their effectiveness should be conducted.

These steps may thus facilitate the progress of tobacco control studies on a systematic basis.

The “Tobacco-Free University” should be considered an important contribution to the goal of enabling everyone to live in a healthy environment, in that it protects the right to health of both those who use and those who do not use tobacco. All background studies and planned steps have significance in the fight against the tobacco industry, and any conflict of interest would constitute a challenge to tobacco control–related issues. Industry has the means to make various attempts to reach young people. Being able to say “no” to all of them means being on the side of health.

Tobacco control studies at universities should be continually updated in order to remain current with scientific developments. Universities should also conduct ongoing awareness-raising activities related to tobacco-control practices for the benefit of society, and should share their work with the public.

In order for all of these policies to be successfully implemented, university administrators, employees and students must support them.

For all of these reasons, we would like to emphasize once again that our universities support tobacco-control studies at the highest level. Due to differences in the structures of the three universities represented here, the details and time schedules of implementation may be different, but our main objective is the same.

Our future objectives include: publishing a “Step-by-Step to a Tobacco-Free University” implementation guideline prepared by our working group, and sharing it with other institutions; organizing a workshop later this year, to which we can invite other universities in Ankara in order to improve our collective know-how; and continuing to work at various levels to disseminate these activities throughout the country in 2019.