WVU Medicine and Health Sciences are starting a new tobacco cessation initiative this year and Adventure WV plans to begin its pilot of the initiative in spring.

The six week informational Adventure WV cessation program aims to inform participants about alternatives to tobacco while they participate in outdoor activities. A cessation program is designed to help tobacco users quit smoking.

“There’s a broader initiative at WVU working on developing more robust services to support students and employees in making healthy lifestyle choices around tobacco, and that is quitting tobacco,” said Frankie Tack, clinical assistant professor and addiction studies minor coordinator at WVU. “One of those initiatives involves a partnership with Adventure West Virginia to create an outdoor activity-based, adventure-based tobacco cessation program.”

WVU Medicine and Health Sciences began working on the program last fall. The initiative is also in collaboration with Breathe Well, Live Well, which is the University’s primary cessation course.

“It’s a little bit of a flip on a traditional cessation program,” said C.J. Belknap, assistant director for Adventure WV. “It’s a six week program where individuals come in and they go through sessions each and every week to learn more about the effects smoking has on the body and how they can go about pursuing quitting or reducing their overall habit.”

Tack said certified tobacco specialists will be working with the Adventure WV team of people to create the more adventure based program.

“They’ll get the cessation tools, skills [and] knowledge, but they’ll be getting it in a different format instead of a classroom or office-based format,” Tack said. “They’ll be getting it as it relates to a variety of adventure activities to include things like climbing the rock wall, cycling on the rail trail, maybe going on hikes, maybe yoga and then culminating in an overnight activity at the Outdoor Education Center.”

Belknap said WVU hopes that through this program, students will reinvest themselves in different outdoor activities instead of smoking or vaping.

“They will have a leader or teacher with them [and] while they balance both the physical activity, they will also have conversations about getting back to why one uses tobacco, learning about the health effects of smoking or vaping, understanding addiction or habit, identifying triggers or cravings and discussing other greater healthy lifestyle tips,” said Jack Swiney, education graduate assistant for Tobacco Free Mountaineers at WELLWVU.

Belknap said even with the legislation that was recently passed in the United States, where it’s now illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase any tobacco or vaping products, he expects good turn out for the program.

“A lot of the University population can no longer purchase these products, so we definitely want to look at it from the lens of like this is a great opportunity,” Belknap said. “This is an opportunity for those individuals who’d maybe dabbled in it, or they’ve tried it. They can look at it now and say, ‘Well the new legislation prohibits me from buying it. I want to change my behavior. I want to change my lifestyle. Do I want to be able to say, ‘Well this is no longer an option for me, what else can I do?’”

“For those who are interested in cessation, but they want something a little different then a normal cessation class, I think this is a great opportunity for them to utilize something more unique when it comes to cessation,” Swiney said.

The program is open to students, faculty and staff and is predicted to run from March 25 through about May 1. An information session about the program will be held in March.

“We’re thinking that because so many of our students, being in West Virginia, really enjoy the outdoors, they enjoy being active, they enjoy the beauty of our state and that if we can combine these two things we might attract more students to stop vaping, to stop dipping [and] to stop smoking,” Tack said.