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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Tobacco-free campus initiative campaign fails to catch eye of students

    Next year, Arizona State University will join the 1,129 other smoke-free campuses in the nation.

    The Sun Devils have just one-upped us.

    At the UA, the Student Health Advocacy Committee, backed by the undergraduate student government, has launched a tobacco-free initiative on campus. Earlier this month, the Associated Students of the University of Arizona passed a resolution declaring its support.

    As a leader in both education and medicine, the UA should also make this transition.

    Removing secondhand smoke will help to create a healthier environment for the student population. According to the American Cancer Society, secondhand smoke in the U.S. causes more than $10 billion per year in medical costs. It is also responsible for around 46,000 deaths from heart disease and 3,400 from lung cancer in nonsmokers each year.

    Research studying the effects of tobacco smoke has discovered that of the 7,000 chemical compounds in tobacco smoke, 69 are known carcinogens.

    Furthermore, according to the 2012 Surgeon General’s Report, 99 percent of adult smokers started smoking by the age of 26, so having a smoke-free college campus is crucial to curbing future tobacco use. However, the campus doesn’t seem to have responded to SHAC’s tobacco-free movement.

    SHAC has a website with a petition to sign in favor of its proposal, but only 390 people have signed it since it was created in November 2012. That’s less than 1 percent of the campus. No one has even posted a comment in the last five months. Along with a site that is hard to navigate, it seems as if SHAC has built a weak foundation for promoting its cause.

    Currently, the smoking policy on the UA campus allows for complaints to be written to the dean, director, department head or other administrator. But for most people, the initial reaction when seeing someone smoking too close to a campus building is not to write an angry letter to the dean about it.

    Stephanie Kha, the Health and Wellness Committee chair of SHAC, said that SHAC wants the university to promote awareness of the policy rather than focusing on disciplinary action. SHAC is moving in the right direction with this focus. It’s unreasonable to think the University of Arizona Police Department will be spending its time looking for people holding a cigarette.

    Instead, SHAC has started to hold events to promote its movement. On March 20, the committee held its first UA Kick Butts Day cleanup competition. However, there was not much signage, and it was hard for me to figure out what was going on as I passed by.

    Started in 1996, Kick Butts Day is a national event organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids that encourages tobacco-free activism. The event’s website has suggestions for many different activities for the day, and yet the event held at the UA seemed limited.

    It is unclear how our campus will respond if the policy is to go into effect. When the University of Kentucky passed its tobacco-free policy in 2009, sales of nicotine replacement products doubled at the campus pharmacy. This response, and those of many other universities, offers a promising outlook if the UA keeps its focus on educating and promoting awareness, not punishing.

    First, however, SHAC needs to start utilizing different mechanisms to attract the attention of college students. A campus-wide smoke-free policy will be difficult enough to enforce, so if the entire student population is not aware of this movement, or in support of it, the impact of this policy will be feeble.

    —Kimberlie Wang is a physiology freshman. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions

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