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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Guest opinion: Molly Tavella

Smoking is a thing of the past, right? I mean, everyone knows about the dangers of smoking now, right? Maybe yes, maybe no, but I think everyone needs to be reminded – especially college-age adults.

Did you know that according to no-smoke.org, you’re Big Tobacco’s shiny, new target if you’re between the ages of 18 and 25? You’re perfect – you’re legal and many of you are away from home for the first time. You feel young and invincible, and you don’t want to worry about whether or not you will meet your possible grandchildren someday while you are still in college.

Now, according to an April 2008 UC Davis survey, only 9 percent of undergraduates, graduates, faculty and staff smoke. That 9 percent is much lower than the California level (13.8 percent) as well as the national level (22 percent). But 0 percent is the goal, not 9 percent.

So let’s run through those frightening statistics again, all obtained from the Centers for Disease Control website. Tobacco use causes cancer of the bladder, oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, kidney, lung, pancreas and stomach as well as acute myeloid leukemia. Smoking can quadruple your risk for coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. Tobacco use also causes lung disease of all kinds, including emphysema, bronchitis and chronic airway obstruction. Smoking has even been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and, of course, is very bad for expectant mothers.

It is estimated that tobacco use causes 5 million deaths per year. For every tobacco-related death, 20 more people suffer from at least one serious illness related to smoking. On average, smokers die 13 to 14 years sooner than non-smokers. If you are a smoker and want to see how much time you have taken off of your own life, you can Google “Interactive Tool: How Does Smoking Affect Your Lifespan?” Not only does smoking hurt you, but secondhand smoke causes 49,000 deaths per year and has been classified as a “toxic air contaminant” by the California Air Resources Board. Cigarette smoke contains things like arsenic, lead and ammonia, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Now, if you are a businessperson, let’s talk numbers. According to the National Coalition on Healthcare, America’s health care spending is the highest in the world at over 16 percent of our gross domestic product. Did you know that America spends $193 billion on smoking-related expenditures each year? Add another $10 billion for secondhand smoke-related issues, according to the CDC.

Now, lets look at Big Tobacco. They have been known to spend $1 million a day – like they did in 2005 – on advertising and promotions specifically targeting college students. Plus, they have a huge return on their investment, according to the American Lung Association, because 28 percent of experimental smokers become regular smokers around age 19.

Another problem is that as cigarette smoke diffuses through the air, it becomes less detectable, but those poisonous and cancer-causing chemicals are still there. One major problem for college students is that most live in multi-unit housing complexes. Smoke can travel undetected through ceiling crawl spaces, light fixtures, tiny openings in your walls and windows and shared ventilation systems. There are several smoke-free housing options for students in Davis – people just don’t think to ask for them.

Lastly, according to the April 2008 survey done by SARI at UC Davis, 74 percent of the 8,686 respondents stated they would support a smoke-free policy at UC Davis. Another 20 percent stated they would support a smoke-free policy depending on how it would be enforced or whether or not there would be designated smoking areas.

UC Davis has the support, yet nothing has been done. Let’s get the main campus to follow the good example of the UC Davis Medical School or other schools like UC San Francisco and stop smoking on campus. The best way to do this is to get students who are interested in a smoke-free policy to come together and approach the governing bodies of UC Davis.

For more information on smoke-free housing options, or if you are interested in a smoke-free UC Davis, call Yolo County Health Department’s “Saving Lungs, Saving Lives” program – which includes the Smoke-Free Apartments Program and the Smoke-Free UCD program – at (530) 666-8613 or e-mail me at molly.tavella@yolocounty.org.

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