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Study: The more dependent students are on nicotine, the more likely they break smoking ban

A new study examines the success of a recent nonsmoking policy at OSU. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Students more dependent on nicotine are more likely to violate a campus ban on smoking, researchers at Oregon State University concluded based on a survey of the school's Corvallis campus community.

The research also found that students who had used nicotine replacement products like gum or patchers were also more likely to violate the policy.

“This is the first study that looks at the characteristics of smokers who violate a smoke-free policy," said Marc Braverman, a professor and Extension specialist in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU and the study’s lead author. "That’s important information for colleges and universities as they implement and enforce smoke- and tobacco-free policies.”

The research suggest that a general level of dependence on nicotine is the most important factor driving policy violations, Braverman said.

“One implication is that universities needs to devote more resources to helping people quit tobacco use,” he said.

Oregon State first looked at a smoke-free campus policy in 2008.

At that time, only 130 campuses nationwide had gone smoke- or tobacco-free.

As of this year, 2,200 campuses are smoke-free; of those, 1,800 are tobacco free, according to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.

Oregon State imposed a ban in 2012.

Researchers decided to follow the first full year of the ban on campus.

More than 5,600 students and 2,000 faculty members took part in a survey.

The new research examined the 1,100 students who reported smoking tobacco or electronic cigarettes.

About a third of the smokers indicated they had violated the campus no-smoking policy at least once, and seven percent of the smokers indicated they had violated the policy many times. The more days students reported smoking in the last month, including both cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products such as cigars and hookahs, the more likely they were to violate the policy.

“We know that addiction is a progressive process,” Braverman said. “If people continue to smoke, they are likely to become addicted. A smoke-free policy can help break the cycle of addiction because it can disrupt people’s smoking-use habits and hopefully prevents them from transitioning into regular users.”

Reseachers plan to follow up with another survey this fall.

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