Campus to go smoke-free

Discussions have resurfaced regarding Sonoma State University shifting toward a smoke-free campus.

This issue was re-ignited after Timothy P. White, Chancellor of the California State University system, announced it would bestow the responsibility of smoking policies on individual campuses.

Mike Uhlenkemp, director of public affairs for the CSU system, said the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees are working on a system-wide policy to be released later this year.

“We are in the process of putting together a system-wide smoking policy. It will be a basis for campus [smoking] policies. It will be the minimum [requirement],” Uhlenkemp said.

Dr. Georgia Schwartz, director of the Sonoma State Health Center, is concerned State campus is endangering the health of students and staff. 

“Every day we don’t do something people are being exposed to the dangers of second-hand smoke which are very real. Every year in this country 45,000-50,000 people die who have never smoked but have been exposed to second-hand smoke,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz emphasized that making the campus smoke-free would also assist smokers’ efforts to quit.

“Statistics show that when smoking becomes inconvenient or expensive or when people have to change their location, the smoking rate drops; it becomes easier for people to quit or harder for people to become addicted,” Schwartz said.

The proposed policy intends to respect the rights of those who wish to smoke as well as non-smokers by encouraging constructive collaboration as a community.

“The policy proposed for Sonoma State was focused on a collegial community-based compliance and not a disciplinary-based compliance,” Schwartz said.

A collegial community-based compliance parallels the policy concept envisioned by the Administration Board at Sonoma State. Matthew Lopez Phillips, chief student affairs officer for the academic division of the university, expressed the importance of the entire university community working together to make a smoke-free campus policy effective.  

“This policy has to be enforced by all the community, students, faculty and staff. There are 9,000 students here and several hundred faulty members and staff. It’s really a community effort; we can’t have the smoking police looking around for these folks,” Lopez-Phillips said.

The University of California Davis campus implemented its smoke-free policy on Jan. 1 of this year. Similar to Sonoma State’s vision for the smoke free policy, spokeswoman for UC Davis Julia Ann Easley said its policy takes “an educational approach” resulting in student support.

 “We’ve had a lot of support from our students. We’ve had some students in clubs who have been taking action for all and promoting it,” Easley said. 

UC Davis’s smoke-free policy is also very focused in supporting smokers while they adapt to the smoke-free campus by providing counseling and nicotine replacement therapy packages.

“Among the resources that we are offering is that students who want to quit can arrange through one of our health units to get a month’s supply of nicotine replacement therapy for free and individual counseling,” said Easley.

Lopez-Phillips expressed that inciting cultural change about attitudes toward smoking at Sonoma State is the foundation for effective community-based compliance and thus vital to a successful policy.

 “I think the best way to start is with cultural change, having people start engaging in conversation and start taking responsibility for making this kind of change on campus… The most successful policy is when it’s part of the culture,” Lopez-Phillips said.

Schwartz urges students and staff to be proactive toward implementing a smoke-free campus for the greater public interest at Sonoma State University.

“Unless the students nudge the campus administration, they will wait for the Chancellor’s office. I think really that someone needs to speak up… somebody besides the Health Center needs to take up that mantra because everybody expects us to do it, they’d be serving more than the Health Center, they are serving in the public interest,” Schwartz said.

Students looking to quit smoking can visit the Student Health Center on the west side of campus across from Zinfandel Residence Halls or call 707-664-2921 to book an appointment.