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Tracking Tobacco Waste to Increase College Policy Engagement

Institution: University Auxiliary and Research Services Corporation
Investigator(s): Kim Pulvers, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 2018 (Cycle 27) Grant #: 27IP-0041S Award: $607,533
Subject Area: State and Local Tobacco Control Policy Research
Award Type: High Impact Pilot Award

Initial Award Abstract

Colleges and universities with smoke and tobacco free (STF) policies do not allow cigarette smoking and other tobacco use on campus. There is a national trend for colleges and universities to adopt STF policies, and about half of public colleges and universities in California have STF policies. There are many potential benefits of STF policies including less tobacco use and exposure to second hand smoke, less tobacco litter, and greater wellness. However, the benefits of STF policies depend on how well colleges and universities support and enforce their policies. A number of California public colleges and universities with STF policies have been having trouble with people on their campuses not following their policy (non-compliance). Unfortunately, most campus administrators will not allow fines or other penalties for STF policy non-compliance, and instead use an education-only approach which depends on the campus community to enforce. This makes it essential to discover new ways to increase how engaged and committed the campus community feels toward their STF policies. There is considerable evidence that increasing engagement and commitment leads to behavior change; therefore, increasing STF policy engagement and commitment is expected to lead to improved policy enforcement and compliance. To address the urgent need for novel tools to support STF policy enforcement, it is our goal to develop and test a tool for individuals to report tobacco use and waste on campus. The tool will be available in existing campus communication channels through student and employee online portals, which is more convenient for people to use than an app. The idea of engaging a large number of people (i.e., crowd) in working on a task (i.e., tracking tobacco use/waste) is called crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing has been successfully used to help solve numerous global problems, but has not yet been used for tracking tobacco waste/use specifically in college settings. Tobacco waste is a motivator for campuses to adopt smoke-free policies and a commonly used compliance tracking endpoint in the scientific literature. We will motivate people to use the tracking tool by having a promotional campaign about the environmental impact of tobacco waste and letting them know they can help solve this problem by using the tracking tool. We will study the effects of the promotional campaign and tool on a UC and CSU campus that have already implemented a STF policy. The goal of this research is to address the critical problem of engaging the campus community with its STF policy and creating a culture which supports and enforces the policy. The long-term objective of this research is to strengthen compliance with college STF policies and reduce environmental tobacco waste. This study aims to 1: Develop and pilot test tobacco use/waste online tracking tools and a promotional campaign on a UC and CSU test campus, and 2: Evaluate use and impact of the tracking tools and promotional campaign among a UC and CSU test campus. Campus surveys will measure student/employee knowledge, attitudes, and awareness before and after the promotional campaign. Use of the tool will be measured by administrator features for repeat users and type of user, and of tobacco waste data entered. Process measures of campus actions taken from the crowdsourced data will be tracked. The pilot study will provide the first step in developing tools and procedures to be used in subsequent larger research project testing the tools with a full sample of CA colleges and universities with 100% STF policies, representing all college types (UC, CSU, community college). Crowdsourcing has the potential to engage the campus community with the policy and enhance enforcement and compliance, and may also be a sustainable method for long-term compliance tracking. This project will have a positive impact on California public universities and colleges, and may be applied to technical/trade schools and other campus settings such as hospitals and behavioral health facilities, within and outside of CA.