This is a response from Campuses Organized and United for Good Health (COUGH) Northridge to the opinion piece that was written by Joelle Katz in the Daily Sundial on January 30, 2012 titled “Non-smoker says: Don’t ban smoking!”
With the recently passed mandate requiring that all University of California facilities be smoke free by 2014, it is evident that there is a national trend for colleges and universities to adopt tobacco-free policies. As part of the CSU system, we have the opportunity to lead and be the first campus in the system to move forward along with many other institutions nationwide.
The benefits are many – having CSUN transition to a smoke-free campus policy will help and be supportive of students, faculty and staff that want to quit smoking and for those who have already quit and want to stay smoke-free. It will reduce the chances of tobacco use initiation among students, faculty and staff, reducing future nicotine addiction.
The damaging effects of cigarette smoking are widely known. According to the California Department of Public Health, smoking kills more Americans each year than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, homicide and illegal drugs combined. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has reported that 443,000 people die from tobacco-related illnesses every year, making it the leading cause of preventable illness in the United States.
The need to address the current smoking policy at CSUN is crucial. The California Department of Public Health states that California young adults have the highest prevalence of tobacco use among any age group population at 18 percent. The college years have been identified as a time of transition in smoking behaviors, with a high risk for smoking initiation and transition into regular tobacco use.
Another potentially dangerous effect of smoking behaviors on campus is second-hand smoke exposure to non-smokers. The CDC reports that exposure to secondhand smoke is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing over 50,000 non-smokers each year. The Surgeon General of the United States has concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke and that establishing smoke-free environments is the only confirmed way to prevent exposure.
Tobacco not only affects people but also the environment. Cigarette butts are the most littered items in the United States. Cigarette waste is not only ugly but it is extremely toxic to our environment. The small filter, when wet, releases the thousands of toxic chemicals contained on the cigarette into the environment. Cigarette butts and other tobacco-related trash not only affect our campus’ image but also can be washed into waterways by storm water runoff. By eliminating tobacco litter our campus can reduce the risk of fire, decrease the cost of cleaning tobacco litter and improve the campus’ appearance.
Smoke-free campus policies are proven to decrease current smoking prevalence on students and decrease the amount of cigarettes used by those who continue to smoke. They can also positively influence students’ perceptions of peer smoking, change social norms around tobacco use, and increase favorable attitudes towards regulation of tobacco. As of last year in the United States, 257 campuses were reportedly completely tobacco-free and 586 campuses smoke-free, according to the California Youth Advocacy Network.
Not taking any actions regarding our current smoking policy would be like promoting a damaging health behavior around campus and encouraging smokers to continue this habit, prolonging and increasing their tobacco addiction. CSUN is an educational institution that has an obligation to model positive behaviors as well as being a positive example for the community. Having a smoke-free policy at CSUN is a step in the right direction towards a healthier campus for students, faculty, staff and the general public.
The mission of COUGH Northridge is to promote a safe and healthy environment for students, faculty, staff and the general public on the CSUN campus by reducing the health risks associated with tobacco smoke. COUGH Northridge promotes good health and improved quality of life by advocating social norms that support a smoke-free campus. The COUGH group is not against smokers or tobacco users, but advocates for health on the CSUN campus.
COUGH Northridge Board
For every eight smoker’s tobacco kills, one non-smoker is also killed by second hand smoke.´(American Lung Association) With a fact like that, it makes one really think about where they have been and how much smoke they have been subjected to. For me, attending college every day and walking through clouds of smoke to get from class to class really begins to put my health into perspective. Should a public place such as a college campus receive more rights than a facility such as a restaurant, department or grocery store? With an individuals health rights, the cleanliness around campus, and overall irritation of some of the students at risk, I believe college campus’ should become America’s new target against smoking and become smoke free.
When something starts to validate an individuals health rights, issues will be brought up. Smoking is something that America has discovered more and more about over the years and has found increasing numbers of facts about diseases and problems associated with it and the pollution it emits. Anyone who passes by a smoker can inhale the excess smoke and potentially be affected. Slowly, second hand smoke is something we are starting to become more aware of and businesses around America are starting to crack down on banning smoking in their facilities. College campus’ have not been hit by this new ban, though, and continue to let students crowd around their doors to get a smoke in between classes. Because the students tend to crowd around the doors, students entering or exiting the building inhale the smoke. Personally I am an individual that does not smoke so I really do not have any desire to incur any of the dangers that are associated with it.
Also because college campuses are where students spend the majority of their day, avoiding contact with it is almost impossible. According to the US Dept. of Health, second-hand smoke has much higher levels of tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide than the direct smoke a smoker inhales. “The Federal Environmental Protection Agency has classified second-hand smoke as a Group A carcinogen. This category includes only the most dangerous cancer-causing substance, such as asbestos and radon.” (American Lung Association) The potential effects of second hand smoke are a lot more dangerous than people expect, and the build up from inhalation can lead to serious problems for individuals in the future.
Just by simply passing by a smoker and taking a breath in and out, over time can cause damage. If this becomes an everyday routine, as one walks to and from his/her class each day they are at risk for potential problems from second hand smoke. Everyone has the right to smoke once they’ve reached the legal age, and I have no desire to discriminate against them, but if they choose to jeopardize their health it should have nothing to do with a stranger just passing by as they enjoy. A possible drive or smoke before or after they attend school might be a solution just as long as the individual isn’t on campus.
Also, with smoking, cleanliness of the campus becomes an issue. For smokers, big cement ashtrays are set up outside to collect the excess cigarette when the individual is done smoking it. These ashtrays often are not given a second glance and the cigarette butts are thrown on the ground around the campus doors. The sight of cigarette butts strewn along the sidewalks around campus is disgusting and does not do much for the lawn attempting to grow along it. When the ashtrays are used, the smell of smoke emanates from them. Pollution from the cigarettes is also an issue, whether it is coming from the cigarette and the individual smoking it outside, or from the ashtrays.
Smoke from anything causes damage to our environment and pollutes the air around it, but with cigarette smoke especially, chemicals are being emitted into the atmosphere as well. Persecution against smokers has never been my goal but when the place where I spend the majority of my day becomes a slight dumping ground for smoking, I believe some alternative needs to be made. Possibly, areas set up away from the campus specifically for smokers could be created so as not to punish college smokers but to keep the cigarette pollution in a confined area.
From some of the problems that are surrounding smoking on campus, some students have begun to get irritated. Author, Lydia Sax states, “Smoking is on the rise, physical and emotional self confidence is down, and feelings of stress are up,” for college students. We all understand that smoking relieves stress for some but with the number of smokers on college campuses, non-smokers are starting to become affected. After walking in from outside, clothes tend to smell of smoke and those allergic to the particles become affected.
Issues may be minor and tolerable to a point but when instances of individuals who do not have any desire to be affected by smoke become more and more frequent, students want a change. Second hand smoke is dangerous and the affects of smoke have only disadvantages. I think everyone is aware of the effects of smoking and those who chose to ignore them, choose to ignore them. But for those people that choose not to be affected, second hand smoke can be very irritating.
With the awareness of the dangers smoking causes, companies around the world are working to no longer allow it in their buildings. The dangers of second hand smoke and the irritants of it have finally become truly noticed. College campuses are still allowing it, and it is affecting the students. With issues concerning an individuals health rights, the cleanliness of the campus, and irritation of students, I feel that smoking should be banned from campuses. Everyone has a right to choose what or what not to subject themselves to, because second hand smoke has been proven to be just as harmful as first hand, for some people that right has been revoked.