Cigarettes may disappear from college campuses
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A new bill in the state assembly would prohibit smoking on all public California college campuses–even in designated smoking areas.
The bill, proposed by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, is intended to ensure a healthier learning environment for college students. However, some students question whether it is necessary or even helpful.
According to a Sac. Bee article, “There is more and more research coming out every day on the negative impacts of vaping for the individual and, potentially, people in the vicinity,” said McCarty.
Under existing policy, all UC campuses are smoke-free, while CSUs and community colleges set their own smoking policies. Skyline’s campuses have banned smoking, including the use of electronic cigarettes, except in designated smoking areas since the fall of 2009.
Electronic cigarettes contain liquid mixtures, often flavored, that are heated into steam and inhaled. Proponents say they’re a less harmful alternative to cigarettes and help smokers quit, while critics see them as a ploy to get around anti-smoking policies.
Compared to recent stats from the California Tobacco Facts and Figures 2015 Report, use of traditional tobacco products has decreased over the years between ages 18 and 24. Use of electronic cigarettes, or vaping, however, has increased 6.4 percent. Use of electronic cigarettes is especially high among adolescents, largely because of the flavors that the liquids are available in.
About 7.7 percent of San Mateo county residents smoke. The Bay Area has among the lowest smoking rates in California. Use of tobacco products has been shown to decrease as level of education increases, and the demographic with the highest rate of smoking is non-Hispanic whites in rural areas.
California has a long history of anti-smoking measures, especially those aimed at young people. In 1988, California voters passed Proposition 99, officially the “Tobacco Tax and Health Protection Act,” which added a 25 cent tax to all packs of cigarettes. The measure also banned the sale of single cigarettes and the availability of tobacco products in vending machines in areas accessible to minors. Revenue from the tax was allocated to anti-tobacco programs. In 2008, a study suggested that the measure had cut health care costs in California by billions.
Although the use of electronic cigarettes, known as vaping, has not been shown to be as hazardous to health as the use of traditional tobacco products, health advocates are still concerned and have tried to ban these products. Advocates say that, while those products are “smokeless,” they still contain some harmful chemicals.
A public health campaign in San Francisco last year, #Curbit, covered subway cars and buses with ads warning of the dangers of electronic cigarettes. They accused manufacturers of preying on youth, saying, “flavored e-cigarettes hook teens on tobacco to replace smokers.” The campaign drew harsh criticism from electronic cigarette manufacturers, who said such campaigns would ultimately only take competition away from larger tobacco corporations.
“It would be more harmful than helpful,” said Judah Darwin, a non-smoker and political science major, when asked about the bill. Like many students, he worried that smokers without a designated smoking area would start smoking elsewhere on campus.
Sixin Huang, a non-smoker and business administration major, said a better solution could be to create smokers rooms, like those that are more commonly found in airports.
Assemblyman Kevin McCarty responded by email when asked why he introduced the bill: “Some college campuses have already led the way on this front, but all campuses should be smoke free. We know that second hand smoke kills and every week, more and more research has come out about the negative health impacts of vaping. California is a leader on this issue: we were the first state to ban smoking inside public places. Our college campuses should follow this precedent setting the trend to promote the health and safety of our students and faculty.”
Not everyone agrees.
“It’s America, bro,” said accounting Major Jake Losel. “It’s freedom of speech, that kind of thing. Why sell cigarettes if it’s illegal to smoke them?”