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