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Expansion of Hall Health program aims to help tobacco users

Using a $100,000 donation from the Snoqualmie Tribe, the UW’s Hall Health is expanding its Tobacco Cessation Program. Over the next three years, it is estimated this program will treat more than a 1,000 tobacco users.

Dr. David Dugdale, director of Hall Health, said that going outside of the UW for monetary support helped the program expand to benefit the community.

“We … haven’t really had a good system or place to refer those people who want to reduce tobacco use,” Dugdale said. “This program will increase the resources available.”

Dugdale said there are three major components to the program: counseling, publicity that helps identify the people who need assistance, and providing appropriate medications. The program will also raise awareness of the dangers of tobacco use, which is still the number one cause of death and disease in the United States.

Counseling for students, faculty, and staff will be free, and patch medications, such as Zyban and Chantix, will be subsidized for those whose insurance doesn’t cover nicotine replacement therapy. Dr. Bill Neighbor, chief of clinical services at Hall Health Center, said patients who inform doctors that they smoke will be referred to the program.

Mark Shaw, director of health promotion at Hall Health, said 15 percent of students at the UW have used tobacco products in the past 30 days.

“If you do the math on that, … that’s probably over 9,000 students in our student body,” Shaw said. “The numbers aren’t too far different for the staff and faculty.”

Dr. Abigail Halperin, director of the Tobacco Studies Program at the UW, said smoking tobacco is more addictive than using heroin or cocaine. Before 2000, the UW sold and advertised tobacco products, and students were even allowed to smoke in the dorms. Now, smoking is only allowed in a few designated areas on campus.

“About 40 percent of college students who smoke either start when they get to college, or they progress from being just occasional smokers to being regular, addicted smokers,” Halperin said.

The program will provide support for people who wish to quit using tobacco. Halperin said the younger a person is when they quit using tobacco, the less risk they have for becoming a lifelong addict or getting a tobacco-related disease.

She said the expanded program, along with making the entire campus smoke-free, would help reduce tobacco use and the health problems that accompany it.

“With the grant, we will be able to hire somebody who can … treat a lot more people and help them either from becoming addicted if they’ve just started smoking or, if they’re already addicted, to help them quit,” Halperin said.

Reach contributing writer Amy Busch at development@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @AmyBusch2

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