Against the tide: a tobacco-free university in Lebanon
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American University of Beirut, Health Promotion and Community Health, Lebanon
American University of Beirut, Communication Office, Lebanon
American University of Beirut, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Lebanon
American University of Beirut, Neighborhood Initiative, Lebanon
American University of Beirut, Human Resources, Lebanon
American University of Beirut, Family Medicine, Lebanon
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A701
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Background and challenges to implementation:
Although Lebanon ratified WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2005, smoking is rampant in the country. With high smoking rates among adults and youth, it is estimated that about 4,010 people die annually from tobacco caused diseases. Laws stipulating smoking bans in public places, including educational establishments, are not observed.

Intervention or response:
In March 2017, the president of the American University of Beirut (AUB) in the Lebanese capital initiated its transformation from a campus with designated smoking areas into a tobacco-free university by January 2018. This presentation describes how AUB went about this initiative and outlines lessons learned. The president formed a university-wide task force made up of staff, faculty, and students, including smokers, to guide the development, implementation, enforcement, and evaluation of the tobacco-free policy. The task force's work concentrated on impact and process evaluation, mapping, policy and enforcement program development, evidence-based communication campaign, and initiating a free smoking cessation program. It developed a consultation plan to enable all members of the community to voice their opinions over the policy. The consultation process consisted of a series of town hall meetings, discussions with smokers and non-smokers in pre-existing smoking designated areas, involvement of student clubs and student representative committees, and the University Student-Faculty Committee.

Results and lessons learnt:
Feedback revealed support, but also heavy concern over how the transformation would play out. Counterarguments were addressed within the communication campaign and informed the planning process.

Conclusions and key recommendations:
In a country with a clear pro-smoking environment, establishing a tobacco-free university is bound to be faced with challenges. Although this has been a top-down mandated initiative, a participatory approach to implementation ensured that concerns were mitigated and allowed the community to gain ownership of the policy. The lessons learned from this process will inform other universities, in Lebanon or in other countries operating in a similar environment.

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