Story and Photo provided by Becky Taylor, TSET Healthy Living Program Coordinator
The Oklahoma Turning Point Council’s Community Champion Award Program was established as a way to recognize the service and dedication of those who make our communities better. The award recognizes initiatives, projects, or events in Oklahoma that contribute to health improvement and quality of life in the community it serves through strategic partnerships and coalition efforts. The Community Champion Award recognizes five categories: tobacco, obesity, children’s health, behavioral health, and other. This year, the partnership between OSU and the Payne County Live Well Coalition received the Community Champion Award in the tobacco category.
Many people have contributed to the great successes in the area of tobacco control in Payne County and the partnership goes back almost a decade.
In 2008, after extensive collaboration between TSET, the Payne County Breathe Easy Coalition (now known as the Payne County Live Well Coalition), and University Health Services (UHS), Oklahoma State University (OSU) became one of the first two universities in America to become completely tobacco free. This decision would cause many universities to eventually follow suit, positively changed the environment of the cowboy campus, and eventually the community as a whole. Signage was placed at each door on campus and at the perimeter of campus. UHS and the coalition partnered annually for each Kick Butts Day and Great American Smokeout to increase the awareness of the policy, encourage tobacco users to use the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, and to celebrate America’s Healthiest Campus.
In December of 2013, Oklahoma State University made another instrumental policy change when electronic cigarettes and vapor products were included on the tobacco policy. New signage was created to replace the ones on building doors highlighting the new policy. UHS, the Department of Wellness, and the Payne County Live Well Coalition continued to partner on tobacco awareness holidays. In 2014, the inaugural Gobble Wobble took place to celebrate the addition of e-cigarettes to OSU’s policy while Pistol Pete led an organized walk on one of the beautiful walking trails the campus has to offer.
Later in 2014, the Payne County Live Well Coalition in partnership with UHS used the momentum of OSU’s new policy to reach out to the City of Stillwater for policy change around tobacco use. The desire for healthy environments that support tobacco free living should not stop when an individual steps off of campus. Therefore, after many meetings, presentations, and discussions with city officials and members of the city council, the City of Stillwater adopted a resolution prohibiting tobacco (including e-cigarettes and vapor products) on parks and recreational facilities. Signage was created and strategically placed around parks and walking trails making the community aware of the new resolution. Through strategic and effective collaborations between the Payne County Live Well Coalition and UHS, the City of Stillwater and Oklahoma State University together actively encourage tobacco free living for all of Stillwater.
This year’s Gobble Wobble took place on November 18. Many staff, faculty, students, and community members attended this event to actively support tobacco-free living. According to the American Cancer Society, after just 20 minutes of being tobacco free, blood pressure decreases and pulse rates drop. Within 24 hours of quitting, the chance of a heart attack decreases. Within one year of quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is lowered to half that of a tobacco user. Plus, annual savings could total nearly $2,700 by not purchasing tobacco products. For many tobacco users, quitting — even for just a day — can feel impossible. But by quitting for an hour here and there, they can build up endurance. As hours, days, and even weeks add up, quitting goes from feeling impossible to something quite possible.
As a community, we can continue to make Stillwater and all of Payne County a healthier place to live, learn, work, and play.