Tobacco-free campus: 10 year anniversay and retrospective of the change

February 4, 2023
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Today is the 10 year anniversary of my organizational workplace making the switch to a tobacco-free campus.

Prior to the change I was involved in organizing and leading our attempts to address tobacco smoking. After we made the switch to a tobacco-free campus, I looked back and realized those earlier efforts were like our organization going through the stages of change.

Making the switch to a tobacco free campus was a total team effort and involved leadership from every part of the organization. It required input and support from every department. Here’s an article we published in 2014 about our change process. It’s a quick and accessible read that covers a lot of ground from rationale, to policy and procedures, obtaining staff buy-in, and more.

Looking back across the ten years, what are some main takeaways or points of learning? A few come to mind.

Sustaining a change is different from making a change.

  • About two years after our change we realized new staff did not have a shared understanding with existing staff. We added staff training on the topic as a routine matter. This helped all staff have a shared understanding.
  • We encountered some difficulties after the first year related to long-term maintenance of the change. These were simple stuck points but we did not anticipate them. We re-formed the steering committee that led the initial change in order to help identify difficulties and build structures to support the project for the long-haul.
  • After a year or two, with the process going well, we figured out we had to help some staff re-solidify their commitment and improve their intentional effort. The success of the effort over time had led to some diminishment of commitment and focus for some staff. This was easily rectified with some intentional effort and support in clinical supervision.

I’ll close with a word of encouragement related to community. During the early years of our process I learned that other organizations were also making this change, or preparing to. And I learned there are people with career-length expertise on this topic working in academia, public health, policy, and diverse community settings. And I came to realize, as is so common in our work, that the vast majority of them are very ready, willing, and able to share what they know, give away what they have, and help others succeed. I learned, at the organizational-leadership level, we don’t have to do this alone and that allowing others to help us is a very good thing.

Related Reading

Our Unconscious Relationship with Tobacco. This challenging article encourages the reader to reflect on the topic from a relatively uncommon perspective.

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