By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – Preparations have been months in the making, and on Sunday, Northeast Mississippi Community College campuses become tobacco-free.
Since early 2011, faculty, staff and students have worked to make everyone aware of why creating a tobacco free environment is important, and as of Jan. 1, they will put the plan into action.
“So far so good,” said college President Johnny Allen. “I have not received any negative comments as we publicized plans for the transition to a tobacco-free campus.”
The student government association has taken an active role in spreading the word, said Melissa Nash, coordinator of the Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition of Prentiss and Tishomingo Counties.
“On Great American Smokeout Day in November, they had information available in the Union building, trying to raise awareness,” Nash said.
Campus officials enlisted the help of the Tobacco Free Coalition to prepare the campus community for the change, and the SGA distributed flyers with information about the Mississippi Quitline to help people quit smoking.
Dean of Student Services Ricky Ford asked Nash last summer to present information at all the orientation sessions for new students, staff and faculty.
“We made sure they had all the information they need,” Nash said. “I’ve also been working with the ACT Center in Iuka to offer smoking cessation classes if there is interest. They’ve volunteered to come to campus to do a class.”
The ACT Center for Tobacco Treatment, Education and Research is a program of the Mississippi State Department of Health which provides free face-to-face tobacco treatment to Mississippi residents interested in quitting.
The college becomes the third public college or university in Mississippi – after Itawamba Community College and Delta State University – to have active tobacco-free programs. Baptist Memorial Hospital-Booneville also is a tobacco-free campus, and Magnolia Regional Health Center in Corinth became a tobacco-free campus in June.
“This encourages students and staff to live a healthy lifestyle “We’re asking the public as well as students and staff to help us with that. We expect the public to comply and cooperate with that, and we expect a good outcome.”
– The Quitline is a telephone and online counseling service, a project of the Mississippi State Department of Health. People can use the service through a toll-free telephone number, 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669), or online at www.quitlinems.com.