The Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick (CCNB) Edmundston Campus became the first college campus in New Brunswick to implement a smoke-free environment policy in September 2017.

Under New Brunswick’s Smoke-Free Places Act, all elementary, middle and high schools must have smoke-free grounds. Post-secondary institutions are not required to be completely smoke-free, but they must enforce a 9m smoke-free zone around all campus entrances. The CCNB Edmundston Campus is a great example of how universities and colleges can be proactive and implement their own smoke-free policy – thus keeping up with the public’s demand for healthier spaces and promoting health and wellbeing for their students and employees.

Students learned at the beginning of the school year that it was prohibited to smoke outside on the campus grounds. “We announced and explained the policy during information sessions at the beginning of the school year, so that all our students and our staff would be aware,” says campus director François Boutot. “Posters have been placed at all entrances to the campus building and a large sign in the parking lot informs our students, staff, and visitors of this policy as they enter the campus. People who want to smoke must either go off the campus grounds or smoke in their cars.”

The CCNB campus is located in a part of the City of Edmundston called Édupôle. This site is home to three educational institutions: the CCNB’s Edmundston Campus, the Université de Moncton’s Edmundston Campus, and the Cité des Jeunes A. M. Sormany high school. CCNB Edmundston Campus management had made the decision about a year earlier to work on the implementation of such a smoke-free policy, following the example of its neighbouring institution, the Cité des Jeunes A.M Sormany, which had launched a smoke-free environment policy making its school and neighbouring properties, including various sports and arts facilities, 100% smoke-free in September 2016. The policy intends not only to promote health and well-being for the CCNB Edmundston Campus students and employees, but also to work towards implementing smoke-free spaces for the entire Édupôle site.

“We are strong supporters of tobacco education, prevention and control, and we hope that one day the entire Édupôle site will be a smoke-free zone. Our colleagues from the Cité des Jeunes A.M. Sormany were the first to show leadership on this issue, and we have seen lots of benefits from their smoke-free policy. We knew it was important to follow their lead and contribute to this growing momentum. Moreover, several students who graduate from the Cité des Jeunes A. M. Sormany come to our college to pursue their post-secondary education. These young adults are accustomed to the idea of a smoking ban on school grounds. We wanted to implement our policy this fall just in time to welcome this first group of alumni from the Cité des Jeunes. Many of these students have even let us know that they really appreciate the fact that they can continue their academic career in a healthy and completely smoke-free environment.”

Boutot adds that the CCNB Edmundston Campus based its policy on best practices and advice from the Cité Jeunes A.M. Sormany as well as Vitalité Health Network. “We drew inspiration from other similar policies and we adapted them to fit our specific needs.”

For example, it was very important for the CCNB Edmundston Campus that its policy put a lot of emphasis on public education. “We do not want to be negative nor punish smokers,” says Boutot. “We want people to respect our policy, because they are aware of its benefits, not because they are afraid of being reprimanded.”

Thus, intervening when people do not respect the policy is always done positively and courteously. “We approach the person who is smoking and politely remind them that smoking is prohibited on the campus grounds as well as the reasons why this policy was put in place. Then, we wish them a good day. We expect people to follow the rules of their own accord. Plus, we have services in place to help employees and students who want to quit smoking. For example, the campus nurse can offer counselling to students who want to quit, and a doctor is available for consultations once per week if someone needs a prescription for smoking cessation aids. Our health insurance plan for our employees covers the costs of cessation aids.”

It has been seven months since the policy was launched and Boutot says that the CCNB Edmundston Campus has seen many direct benefits.

“Before the policy was launched, we had a smoker’s section, and although it complied with the Smoke-Free Places Act, meaning this zone was more than 9m away from the campus building entrance, approximately 40 people were smoking in this space on a daily basis. There was a lot of second-hand smoke. Visitors to our campus, as well as our students and teachers, had no choice but to be exposed to some of this second-hand smoke every day as they passed by the smoking zone to get to the building. Now there is no more second-hand smoke, the air is clean and this makes the campus a little more inviting. Although we did hear some complaints from smokers who had to adapt to the idea that they now had to leave the campus grounds to smoke, many of our students and teachers have thanked us. They appreciate no longer having to breathe second-hand tobacco smoke daily. Our students also help enforce the policy by letting us know if they see people who smoke on the campus grounds and we are able to go outside and talk to them and ask them to extinguish their cigarettes.”

The CCNB Edmundston Campus has approximately 350 students and 100 employees. A lot of people are now enjoying the healthy, smoke-free outdoor space the campus grounds provide. Other CCNB campuses are keeping a close watch on the CCNB Edmundston Campus. The New Brunswick Anti-Tobacco Coalition (NBATC) hopes many universities and colleges will be inspired to do the same, contributing to the growing movement towards 100% smoke-free spaces in the province. Boutot offers the following tips.

Students, faculty and all employees at the CCNB Edmundston Campus are benefiting from a 100% smoke-free campus since the beginning of the school year in September 2017.

“I recommend that educational institutions who wish to follow our lead aim to announce their intention to implement an outdoor smoke-free environment policy several months before the actual implementation of this policy to raise awareness of the benefits of such a policy. We would have liked to notify our students earlier before the policy came into effect to give them a few months to get used to the idea, but we ran out of time. It was a bit difficult at the beginning for our 2nd and 3rd-year students who were used to smoking on the campus grounds, while our 1st-year students accepted the policy a lot easier since the majority of these students had gotten used to such a policy at the Cité des Jeunes A.M Sormany high school. However, I would say that, in general, people have accepted our policy and are respectful. We also received funding through the Department of Social Development’s Take Action on Tobacco Use Grant Program, which helped us cover the costs for the beautiful posters we put up on our campus. I urge people to look into this program. The grant was a big help.”

Story and photos used with permission from the CCNB Edmundston Campus.

Published in March 2018.

CCNB Edmundston Campus director François Boutot is proud of the campus’ new smoke-free outdoor environment policy. 

By Nathalie Landry – NBATC Communications Coordinator.