As drivers put down their cell phones July 1, the UC Davis Health Center began implementing a new rule of its own by declaring a smoke-free environment for its Sacramento campus.
A kickoff event took place on the campus to declare the 140-acre site a nonsmoking zone. The health center provided resources for those who want to quit smoking as well as free nicotine gum. The event featured free food and refreshments while musical entertainment was provided by the local group Mumbo Gumbo.
Vice Chancellor for Human Health Sciences and Dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine Claire Pomeroy spoke at the event about the reasons the campus decided to go smoke-free.
“As the leading academic health system in our region, we must maintain an environment that protects the safety and well-being of employees, students, patients, visitors and our community,” she said.
She spoke about the ill effects of secondhand smoke and how making the campus smoke-free is consistent with the medical center’s efforts to promote health.
“In order to preserve the health of our patients and our employees, we no longer permit a practice that is the leading cause of preventable and premature death in the world,” Pomeroy said.
Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Sacramento is also participating in the smoke-free zone as well as the Cleveland and Mayo clinics along with many other health systems and hospitals around the country.
Smoking cessation classes for those who want to quit will be offered at the campus year-round in five-week increments. Free nicotine gum will also be provided by the health center for anyone on campus who may feel the urge to smoke a cigarette.
Suzanne McInish, an administrative assistant in the department of otolaryngology, also spoke at the kickoff event about how the new policy inspired her to quit smoking.
“I’m truly thankful for UC Davis’ smoking cessation program. I probably wouldn’t have had any incentive to take a cessation course if it hadn’t been for the new smoke-free policy,” said McInish in a press release. “I credit my success to the excellent information and guidance I received during the classes. Had I known it would have been so easy, I would have quit long, long ago.”
Smoking-related diseases account for billions of dollars every year in health care costs in the United States and as many as 440,000 deaths a year along – 69,000 of which are caused by secondhand smoke, according to the American Heart Association.
“Today is an important beginning, and we know we can do even more…. The next step is for all of us to take this message to our larger community,” Pomeroy said.
Another step might be bringing the smoke-free zone to the main UC Davis campus – something about which some students are skeptical.
“I think it’s really hard to prohibit [smoking] completely on campus,” said Akiko Yokouchi, a 2008 alumna whose roommate smokes daily. “There would be a lot of protest. Personally though, I wouldn’t mind because I don’t like the smoke.”
ANGELA RUGGIERO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.