Our View

Up in smoke on campus

By From page A6 | January 08, 2014

The issue: UC, CSU systems clear the air for the new year

UC Davis students returned to class this week to find some big changes afoot. Beginning on Jan. 1, the entire University of California system, along with California State University campuses, went 100 percent tobacco-free.

THAT MEANS NO smoking, no chewing, no dipping and none of those new electronic cigarettes, either. The policy applies all across the UCD campus, indoors and out, and in off-campus buildings owned by the university, and even in moving cars. Indoor smoking has been forbidden for a long time, but the new rules give smokers nowhere to light up.

The policy has been almost two years in the making, since former UC President Mark Yudof announced the goals in January 2012. Since then, all five UC medical centers have gone smoke-free, as well as the UCLA and UC San Francisco campuses. Now, the other campuses have caught up. UCD created a website — http://breathefree.ucdavis.edu — with information on the policy and tips on quitting smoking. UC Riverside spent $50,000 in promotional events and materials as the lights-out date loomed.

CSU Chancellor Timothy White has expressed support for a systemwide prohibition of tobacco products, but it’s been a campus-by-campus decision so far. The Fullerton and San Diego campuses instituted bans for the new year.

Enforcement will be with a light touch, focusing on education. UCD’s online news site, Dateline, said those caught smoking on campus will get information about the policy, plus access to campus resources to help quitting. This is the right approach — the goal is healthier campuses, not a systemwide detention hall. We hope the threatened “additional reinforcement measures” won’t be necessary.

It’s the same at San Diego State; spokesman Greg Block assured students that police won’t be handing out tickets.

YOLO COUNTY’S health officer, Dr. Constance Caldwell, detailed last month an alarming increase in teen smoking rates. Between 2007 and 2011, Yolo teenagers more than doubled their rate of smoking. Smokers tend to start young, so any increase at this age will have ripple effects into the future.

“If our youth begin smoking in increased numbers,” Caldwell said, “we will see this continue into adulthood.”

This is why college smoking is so critical. Out of their parents’ homes, and newly able to buy tobacco legally, college students are primed to begin a lifelong habit. By cutting down use at universities, we can put the brakes on a worrisome trend.

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