The University of California has decided to ban all forms of smoking and tobacco products throughout its campuses. The policy was recently announced earlier this month and will gradually take effect over the next two years.
“As a national leader in healthcare and environmental practices, the University of California is ready to demonstrate leadership in reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke,” stated Yudof in a public letter to each campus chancellor. “Offering a smoke-free environment will contribute positively to the health and well-being of all UC students, faculty, staff, and our patients and visitors.”
According to state and national public health records, California’s 12 percent smoking population is one of the lowest in the nation, compared to the national average of 19.6 percent. Nearly 8 percent of all UC students smoke, with a slightly higher percentile among campus employees. The aim of the new policy is to encourage healthier lifestyles through preventative care and to create a safe environment for those who would otherwise be subject to secondhand smoke.
UC Riverside Preventive Care Specialist Dr. Ken Stewart has worked with the Wellness Oversight Committee for the last few years focusing on areas such as smoking education and awareness. “The UC is transitioning into a smoke-free environment and we have programs here which will help students stop smoking” stated Stewart. “Many of them in school want to stop smoking because they realize it’s a problem for their health, they realize they want to be free from that hacking cough so we here at the campus health center help them make that transition.”
UC Riverside’s current smoking policy requires “a distance of 25 feet from a building’s entries, outdoor air intakes and operable window” for smokers, but this policy has gradually resulted in 10 designated smoking areas around campus. Due to the recent decisions made by the university, the advertisement and usage of all smoking and tobacco products will be banned by 2014. “To completely take away that right [to smoke] and provide us with one corner? I guarantee you over 90 percent of the smokers will continue to smoke because it’s a habit. I understand those who do smoke and those who don’t smoke, but sometimes I just need a cigarette,” said third-year biology major Devon Robinson, a regular smoker who felt strongly against the decision.
According to scientific findings, certain “triggers” in one’s environment—namely, stress—can play a role in motivating one to smoke. “For example, if they drive a certain way, a certain route to school and doing that route they may stop at a stop light and it triggers them to smoke then I suggest them to go another route,” added Stewart, who also said that there are programs at both the Campus Health Center and the Well to combat smoking habits. One initiative provides “quit kits” to aid those who wish to take the necessary steps in combating their smoking addiction.
”I think the university as a whole is moving towards stronger and better health for our students because in college this is where a lot of students create the kind of lifestyle that they want,” said Stewart.