Student group campaigns to create a smoke free UNO

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Smoke Free UNO is kicking “butts” and taking names—literally. This campaign to make the University of Nebraska at Omaha a smoke free campus has created an online petition to end smoking on the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s campus. Smoke Free UNO was initially started by Eta Sigma Gamma, a National Health Education and Public Health Honorary.

Smoke Free UNO officially began on Feb. 7 of this year at the monthly Eta Sigma Gamma meeting. However, work has been going into the campaign since last November. Since then, the group has been collaborating with administration and professors for encouragement and new ideas. Throughout Christmas break and the beginning of the semester, campaign members reached out even further and spoke to community leaders and local organizations, who also strongly support of the movement.

Although the campaign was started by Eta Sigma Gamma, the entire UNO community is encouraged to join the effort.

“We want this to be a choice of the people,” said Corey Kinnan, president of Eta Sigma Gamma. “We want to let students make this choice on their own.”

To help get the campus involved, Eta Sigma Gamma has reached out to the Freshman Leadership Council and the student senate. Smoke Free UNO is hoping to collaborate with these groups in order to eventually initiate a fair tobacco policy.

“We will continue to reach out to the student body and community leaders to further our campaign,” Kinnan said.

Part of the campaign also includes spreading information about the myths, truths and hazards about tobacco and tobacco smoke. Eta Sigma Gamma, which consists largely of public health and health education students, picked a cause that has many short- and long- term health effects.

“Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S., and we want to help people live healthier lives,” Kinnan said. “Many lifetime habits and lifestyle choices begin at an early age. We would love to see UNO students begin their adult life as healthy as possible. We want people to live longer healthier lives.”

Smoke Free UNO is hoping to benefit both smokers and nonsmokers. “Tobacco doesn’t just affect the smoker. It puts dangerous toxins in the air that seriously affect the health of other students,” Kinnan said. “UNO is a close quarter campus, which means that simply walking around a smoker isn’t an option. By the time you have smelled the smoke, you’ve already been exposed.”

Eta Sigma Gamma also recognizes the importance of helping smokers eventually quit the habit. Therefore, they are making plans if UNO eventually becomes a smoke free campus. “When UNO becomes a smoke free campus, we would love to work closely with students and health services to assist with smoking cessation efforts,” Kinnan said. “We know that smoking is an addiction. We want to get people the help they need and hope everyone can live a long, healthy and productive life.”

Students and faculty who want to join the campaign can get involved in a variety of ways. One way is to start spreading the word. Another is to sign the online petition. Signers are also allowed to leave a message about why they support Smoke Free UNO. “These messages are incredibly motivating, and it really shows how personal this subject is for a number of people,” Kinnan said.

People who want to get involved can also share the petition with friends and family. The Smoke Free UNO petition is aiming for a minimum of 1,500 signatures.

So far, the Smoke Free UNO petition has gotten around 400 signatures in less than a month of being in existence. “We are very optimistic about our campaign,” Kinnan said. “We have had tremendous support. Students have been incredibly positive, and we are motivated to see UNO become smoke free.”

Eta Sigma Gamma’s campaign, which isn’t required for a class or graduation project, is purely driven by the hope to make UNO a healthier place to be. “We are simply motivated by the joy we get from helping people make healthy choices and changes to their lives,” Kinnan said. “We want UNO students to be healthy and happy.”

As many people know, some of the dangers of smoking on campus were on sharp display last week when a dormitory on Scott campus was ablaze in flames. Firefighters spent hours putting out a fire caused by a discarded cigarette on a second floor balcony.

Eta Sigma Gamma’s Smoke Free UNO made a statement addressing the issue. “First, we would like to express how thankful we are that no one was hurt,” wrote Eta Sigma Gamma on their Facebook page. “We would also like to note that prior to this event, Smoke-Free UNO had started collaborating with student government regarding a smoke-free policy. We are still impassioned and committed to our campaign. However, right now the focus needs to be on relief efforts. We are confident that the UNO community will come together during this crisis and emerge stronger than ever. Our thoughts go out to our fellow students who were affected by the fire.”

For more information, visit the Smoke Free UNO website at SmokeFreeUNO.com. To help students who were impacted by the Scott campus fire, visit the Heartland Chapter of Red Cross or nufoundation.org. Food donations can be given at the Milo Bail Student Center in the Student Life office.

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