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Woman lauded for UT smoking ban

Doctoral student accepts highest award from Ohio public health society

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Alexis Blavos, a doctoral student at the University of Toledo, was named the 2014 Health Educator of the Year by the Ohio Society for Public Health Education.

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University of Toledo doctoral student Alexis Blavos has been recognized for her part in pushing the institution to ban smoking on campus.

Ms. Blavos, 34, was named the 2014 Health Educator of the Year by the Ohio Society for Public Health Education.

The award recognizes public health educators who have contributed to policy or environmental change. It is the organization’s highest award, according to a news release issued by the group.

Ms. Blavos, who is also a former employee of the university, accepted the award at a ceremony last month.

“The Health Educator of the Year Award is a testament to an individual’s dedication, skill, and passion to the health of their community,” said the Ohio society’s president, Megan Amaya, in a news release.

As the former alcohol and drug prevention specialist for UT, Ms. Blavos played a major role in pushing for reform in the schools tobacco policies.

“I’m passionate about public health and about making the campus healthy for everybody, smokers and nonsmokers included, so having clean air for everybody to breathe is very important and I think just not on a college campus but in a community,” she said.

The University of Toledo eliminated Ms. Blavos’ drug specialist position in April, 2013, but she was asked to stay on in an advisory role on the tobacco and alcohol implementation task force.

The board of trustees voted unanimously last April to ban all tobacco use on all UT campuses.

The ban applies to tobacco, smokeless tobacco, snuff, and electronic cigarettes. The policy, however, did not go into effect until August, Ms. Blavos said.

UT has moved incrementally toward this ban.

Its Health Science Campus, the former Medical College of Ohio, went smoke-free in 2008. And the university implemented a policy in 2011 that limited smoking and tobacco use on main campus to designated areas and inside personal vehicles.

“When we look at the history of tobacco prevention, you think back to the 1950s where more than 50 percent of people smoked. What public health has done is incredible over the last 60 to 75 years. I hope that somehow we can model other substance prevention the same way,” Ms. Blavos said.

Ms. Blavos is writing a dissertation to complete her doctorate program at UT focusing on the impact of medical marijuana on college students. This is the next issue that she hopes to tackle as a public health professional.

“[In the] ‘monitoring the future survey,’ which surveys eighth graders to 12th graders, it’s the first time that marijuana use has exceeded tobacco use,” she said.

Ms. Blavos is a native of Hudson, Ohio and completed both her bachelor’s and master’s degree programs at Kent State University.

Contact Marlene Harris-Taylor at mtaylor@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.

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