With the holidays quickly approaching, the University of California has already made its New Year’s resolution — to end smoking on its campuses.
Starting Jan. 1, UC Berkeley students, staff, faculty and visitors will no longer be able to smoke on campus or in campus-affiliated facilities due to a universitywide ban on tobacco products mandated by former UC president Mark Yudof almost two years ago.
In preparation for the shift, the Tobacco-Free Berkeley Steering Committee has spent the past few months finalizing campus policy and working on educating community members about the change.
The steering committee created an outreach program, tabled at campus events and used print and social media, among other efforts, to raise awareness about the new policy, according to Steve Maranzana, assistant manager of the Health and Safety Team at the UC Berkeley Office of Environment, Health and Safety and project manager of Tobacco-Free at Berkeley.
During the first year of implementation, the policy will be enforced more informally, with a focus on educating offenders, although extreme cases may still be referred to the campus Center for Student Conduct, Maranzana said.
“We’re hoping that just by changing the social norm, it won’t be necessary to use other means of enforcement,” said Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health and co-chair of the committee.
The Tang Center sees clients, assesses their needs and refers them to helpful resources, according to Kristl Buluran, a smoking-cessation specialist for University Health Services.
Students, faculty and staff also have access to a free two-week supply of either lozenges or patches with various doses of nicotine to help them quit using tobacco, Buluran said.
The policy bans not only the use of cigarettes but also that of tobacco, smokeless tobacco or unregulated nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are part of the policy because, in addition to not being approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between cigarettes and e-cigarettes, making enforcement a challenge, Buluran said.
“Some individuals have successfully used (e-cigarettes) to quit smoking, but studies have shown that for every person that e-cigarettes help quit, more are introduced to smoking,” Maranzana said.
Researchers, including Igor Burstyn, an associate professor and researcher at Drexel University’s School of Public Health, have criticized the university for the inclusion of e-cigarettes in the ban.
“The FDA is silent on many subjects,” Burstyn said. “This does not mean that they should be banned or considered hazardous.”
The steering committee is also aware that due to cultural differences, international students may face challenges in adjusting to the policy change, Moskowitz said.
“Researchers from UC Davis will do a multicampus study looking at the international population and the unique issues for them, but part of the cross-cultural experience should be learning to fit into a new culture,” Moskowitz said. “This could be one of the more useful things international students get from living in this country.”
Ryan Qiu, a UC Berkeley sophomore and international student who often smokes in front of the Free Speech Movement Cafe, had not heard of the policy change from officials.
“I don’t understand why the administration can’t just create designated smoking areas,” Qiu said. “Not a lot of students smoke in the United States compared to places like China, where I’m from. Now, students who want to continue to smoke will have to find a place where people won’t find them.”
According to Moskowitz, the downside to designated smoking areas is they create a place for smokers to hang out and encourage students to smoke even if they want to quit.
“With a tobacco-free campus, we’re trying to establish a norm that people shouldn’t use tobacco,” Moskowitz said. “The ultimate goal would be to help create a tobacco-free generation.”