Porter Quad is a common place for people to smoke on campus. After the implementation of the tobacco ban, this will no longer be an option. Photo by Daniel Green.
Porter Quad is a common place for people to smoke on campus. After the implementation of the tobacco ban, this will no longer be an option. Photo by Daniel Green.

Chancellor George Blumenthal reminded the campus community in an e-mail on March 25 tobacco will soon be banned from UC campuses. Come Jan. 1, 2014 the 8 percent of students who smoke on UC campuses and the 10 percent of UC employees who smoke will have to take their cigarettes, cigars and all other tobacco products off campus and off all UC properties.

“We cannot be on the forefront of healthcare if we cannot ask ourselves to eliminate, at least attempt to eliminate, these types of behaviors on our campuses and in our medical center,” said Steven Gest, medical director of Santa Cruz’s Occupational Medical Center and assistant clinical professor at UCSF.

According to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, 1,129 college campuses are currently 100 percent smoke free and 766 of these have a 100 percent tobacco-free policy. This is a marked increase from the 290 college campuses that were 100 percent tobacco-free, according to the American Lung Association, as of November of 2012.

“It’s really a bit of a tidal wave,” said Saladin Sale, the UCSC director of Risk Services and co-chair of the campus committee to oversee the implementation of the policy.

System-wide, Kevin Confetti, the director of workers’ compensation for University of California Office of the President, is co-leading the tobacco-free policy implementation. Confetti said a 100 percent tobacco-free campus will be difficult to achieve.

“There are a lot of nooks and crannies on our campuses,” Confetti said. “Our campuses are very, very large.”

Because implementers of the policy cannot be everywhere all the time, the policy will be primarily enforced “educationally.”

“The first 12–24 months of the policy … we’re hoping that, instead of using a stick, for lack of the better word, that we can help educate folks and get them to appreciate and understand the benefits of tobacco cessation,” Confetti said.

UC plans to educate smokers and nonsmokers within the UC community by offering cessation education, referral and resources, over-the-counter and prescription tobacco cessation medications, telephone, individual or group counseling and on-site individual and group support as educational outlets.

Steven Gest said that smoking does not only affect smokers.

“There’s been a recent uptake in the incidence and severity of asthma, and we’ve been searching for the root cause of that,” Gest said. “Second hand smoke has been allocated as one of the partial root causes.”

UCSC students and faculty consistently complain about secondhand smoke, said Jean Marie Scott, associate vice chancellor of risk and safety services and co-chair of the committee that oversees the implementation of the tobacco ban with Saldin Sale.

“We have quite a few faculty and students, and staff members, in any given year who are very much impacted from secondhand smoke,” said Scott, who said she has worked at UCSC for over 20 years. “With the new policy going into effect, I’m hopeful that we’re better able to mitigate and have people cooperate in a way that they’re not impacting folks across the campus with secondhand smoke.”

This new policy will also reduce the amount of litter on UCSC’s campus, Scott said, after reporting the huge volumes of cigarette butts that currently litter UCSC’s campus.

It also invokes the question of whether smoking is a right or a privilege, said Steven Gest. He said it is a right in the privacy of an individual’s own environment, but it is also a privilege that should be restricted when it negatively influences and infringes upon others.

“The greater society is not willing to absorb the cost of your decision,” Gest said.

Sale hopes a dialogue regarding the ban will continue within UCSC communities.

“In the months to come, we’re going to be having a very open campus discussion around these issues,” Sale said. “Hopefully we can really model a very positive thing for the rest of California society.”