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Nursing Students Initiate No-Tobacco Policy

From left to right, RIC nursing students Alicia Harris and Ericka Samoorian; Jane Williams, dean of RIC's School of Nursing; Michael Fine, director of the RI Department of Health; Peter Asen, representing the office of Providence Mayor Angel Taveras; and Ron Pitt, RIC vice president for academic affairs.

From left to right, RIC nursing students Alicia Harris and Ericka Samoorian; Jane Williams, dean of RIC's School of Nursing; Michael Fine, director of the RI Department of Health; Peter Asen, representing the office of Providence Mayor Angel Taveras; and Ron Pitt, RIC vice president for academic affairs.

Dedicated to maintaining a healthy work and learning environment, RIC’s School of Nursing is the first public nursing school in Rhode Island to ban tobacco use, a policy developed and supported by nursing students themselves.

While Rhode Island College already prohibits smoking inside its buildings and facilities, the nursing school’s policy prohibits smoking or use of tobacco products by students while in uniform or when representing the School of Nursing.

In recognition of this accomplishment, Dr. Michael Fine, director of the state Department of Health, presented a certificate of commendation to the three nursing students who led the initiative: Ericka Samoorian, president of the RIC Student Nurses Association (RSNA); Alicia Harris, RSNA treasurer; and Alexandra Gadbois, RSNA project coordinator. All three are members of the Class of 2014.

“You may be students, but as far as I’m concerned, you’re teaching us,” Fine said.

The state Department of Health is discussing how to advance this policy across the state. “We would love to see no-smoking at all state-owned facilities in Rhode Island,” Fine said.

He also noted that nurses have the highest smoking rate of any health professionals, and he praised RIC’s nursing students for their leadership.

Jane Williams, dean of RIC’s School of Nursing, said she is “very proud” of her students. She explained that the policy was initiated after concerns about smoking were expressed to her by nursing students. As a result, she asked the nursing student association to address the problem.

Working over the summer, the three students conducted a 15-question survey. With a 45 percent response rate, they found that an overwhelming 87 percent of their fellow nursing students favored a tobacco ban.  

Harris said, “we are not asking students to quit smoking.” There are smoking cessation programs already in place at Rhode Island College and at the RI Department of Health. ”We're simply asking nursing students to avoid tobacco use while in uniform or when representing the School of Nursing.”

Among those attending the ceremony were: Ron Pitt, RIC vice president for academic affairs; Peter Asen, who congratulated the students on behalf of Providence Mayor Angel Taveras; RIC nursing faculty and students; representatives of the state health department; and representatives of the Urban League of Rhode Island. The latter two agencies worked with RIC students on the project.