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News Release

   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   October 22, 2001

George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., MD, MPH
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg/609-984-7160
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Lisa Holmes/212-453-2489

Armed with New Survey Results, DHSS Acting Commissioner DiFerdinando Unveils Four-point Plan for Reducing Smoking on New Jersey Campuses

New Brunswick, NJ - The New Jersey Department of Health & Senior Services (DHSS) acting Commissioner George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., MD, MPH, urged presidents of New Jersey's colleges and universities to implement strong tobacco control policies on their campuses. Addressing the New Jersey Council Presidents (NJPC) at their regular fall meeting, the acting Commissioner stressed the urgent need to change social norms among college students.

Noting that the 18-to-24 age group has the highest prevalence of smoking compared to any other age group, acting Commissioner DiFerdinando stated: "The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars each year marketing to these young people. Because tobacco is a legal drug, there may be a tendency to dismiss its lethal effects. But let me emphasize that tobacco is the number one preventable cause of death - both in New Jersey and in the nation."

The acting Commissioner emphasized that results from the New Jersey Higher Education Consortium Tobacco Social Norms Project, funded by DHSS, to underscore the need for immediate and strong action. The study, which tracked trends in tobacco use by college students and analyzed New Jersey collegiate tobacco policies, reveals most college students overestimate tobacco use among their peers and underestimate the health effects associated with smoking. Students estimated that only 3 percent of their peers had never tried tobacco, when actually 56 percent of students had never tried it. Furthermore, nearly 60 percent of college students underestimated the number of deaths related to tobacco use by 25 percent. At the same time, students overestimated by the same percentage the number of deaths related to illicit drugs.

"These results affirm that New Jersey students have the perception that smoking is normative. If we want to reduce the number of smokers in the state, we have to start by changing the community's views about tobacco," said Linda R. Jeffrey, Ph.D., Director, Center for Addiction Studies, Rowan University and lead investigator for the project, who joined the acting Commissioner in addressing the Presidents' Council.

Dr. DiFerdinando concluded with a four-point call-to-action for the presidents: First, to appoint a person at every college or university with the authority to enforce tobacco control policies; second, to create smoke-free dorms and restrict outdoor smoking to a few areas; third, to prohibit the sale of tobacco products on campus; and fourth, to promote the cessation services offered by DHSS to all residents of New Jersey: New Jersey's Quitnet, Quitline and Quitcenters.

To help implement a strong campus effort, acting Commissioner DiFerdinando provided the presidents with samples of materials that will be sent to all campuses over the next few weeks. The materials include a compelling video of two New Jersey students discussing why they started smoking and their experiences in trying to quit, as well as posters and leaflets about New Jersey's Quit services. The presidents also received a series of posters that are part of a social norms campaign currently in operation on three New Jersey campuses.

DHSS has long recognized the need to address certain risky behaviors among college students, including tobacco use. More than a decade ago, DHSS established a forum for New Jersey colleges and universities, The New Jersey Higher Education Consortium, to discuss issues surrounding substance abuse. Since then, the Consortium has established a number of activities across university campuses through funding from DHSS, including the social norms study. In addition, DHSS recently announced a grant for party drug research among New Jersey's high school and college students.

New Jersey Quitline, Quitnet and Quitcenters are no-and low-cost services provided by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to help state residents stop smoking and using other tobacco products. New Jersey Quitnet,, is a free innovative online resource that provides comprehensive, individually tailored smoking cessation options, peer support, and access to the advice of trained counselors. New Jersey Quitline, 1-866 NJ-STOPS (1-866-657-8677), offers toll-free telephone counseling in 26 languages six days a week. Trained counselors work with callers at every stage in the quitting process, developing treatment plans that meet the needs of the individual. New Jersey Quitcenters are counseling clinics with services available on a sliding fee scale. People can contact NJ Quitline or Quitnet to find a Quitcenter location near them.

DHSS funds the New Jersey Higher Education Consortium Tobacco Social Norms Project with money from the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) between 46 states and the tobacco industry. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently ranked New Jersey as 11th among the states in committing a substantial portion of MSA funds for tobacco control programs. New Jersey's Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program is designed to reduce the sickness, disability and death among New Jerseyans associated with the use of tobacco and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.

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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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