Op-Ed: UK Tobacco-free Ambassadors proud of tobacco policy results



As UK’s Tobacco-free Take Action! (TFTA) Ambassadors, we want to take a moment to inform the UK community about the efforts we are making on a daily basis to keep our campus a healthy place to live, work and learn.
UK’s tobacco-free policy was adopted in November 2009 and the policy states that the use of any form of tobacco is prohibited everywhere on campus, including university-owned sidewalks, streets and parking structures.
Over the past nine years, UK has been continually committed to promoting adherence to the policy. Since the development of our TFTA Ambassador program in 2010, we have seen a dramatic 40 percent decline in the number of cigarette butts on campus — an indicator of increased compliance with the tobacco-free policy. As TFTA Ambassadors, we promote compliance with the policy on a daily basis, but many people do not know who we are or what we do.
As TFTA Ambassadors, we serve a variety of roles. We attend campus functions (such as SeeBlueU orientation, Campus Ruckus and Merit Weekends) to promote awareness of the policy and to engage students and staff to learn more about our efforts.
Most recently, the ambassadors tabled at the Tobacco-free Tailgate in partnership with University Health Service, our Tobacco-free Campus Committee and many other participating campus organizations. The event was successful in providing information about the multitude of tobacco treatment options available for UK students, faculty and staff to help them quit when ready. In addition, we reinforced the dangers of Juuls (and similar e-cigarette products) and that Juuls are included in our campus tobacco-free policy. We are proud of the work we are doing on campus to advocate for compliance and share tobacco treatment resources.
Not only do we attend campus functions to promote the policy, we also spend several hours each day approaching people who are in violation of UK’s policy. As ambassadors, we are trained to talk with and report individuals not adhering to the policy using a firm, but kind and compassionate, scripting approach. UK has worked to create an environment of compliance and while we are working hard to achieve this daily, it will take all of us working together to see continued success.
It is time to correct the misperception that UK is not doing anything when it comes to our tobacco-free policy. Not only do we lead the nation in promoting successful compliance strategies, UK takes enforcement of the policy seriously, guided by existing corrective action procedures for students as outlined in the Student Code of Conduct and for employees as outlined in Human Resources policies and procedures. It is the responsibility of all university members to know and abide by rules, laws, regulations, contracts and university policies and procedures.
We have implemented a volunteer program to increase our reach on campus and in the community. Volunteers are trained on UK’s tobacco-free policy, how to approach and report those not adhering to the policy and work collaboratively with the TFTA Ambassadors in our efforts to continue improving compliance with the policy.
In addition, ambassadors serve the role of student advocates who attend events to volunteer and raise awareness for tobacco-related issues and empower others to create a tobacco-free generation. Students who are interested in the volunteer program can sign up using this link
We appreciate all efforts made by the campus community to help promote an environment of respect for others on campus. Since the tobacco-free policy was implemented in 2009, current student tobacco use (past 30 days) has declined from 30 percent to 17.5 percent.
While we know it will take time to eliminate tobacco use on campus altogether, we are emboldened by the results we have seen so far and we are optimistic about the future. Instead of complaining about what you think is wrong with our policy and the efforts being undertaken, take a moment to learn more about what we are doing and what you can do to get involved and help! Learn more at www.uky.edu/TobaccoFree or by watching our YouTube video.
We also welcome any questions about our role as ambassadors and the policy. Our email is [email protected]
The Tobacco-free Ambassadors are Hayley Leach, Sierrah Miley, Lindsay Bates, Sinead Maharrey, Sophia Marcolla and Katie Meyr.