UCLA’s tobacco ban is a symbolic act.
Starting today, students can pick up informational cards about UCLA’s tobacco-free policy in Murphy Hall and pass them out to people on campus whom they see using tobacco. The cards will also provide information on tobacco cessation resources on campus.
In other words, the policy will be only weakly enforced and will mainly rely on students to hand out the cards to their peers, providing little in the way of concrete methods to decrease on-campus smoking.
Though we appreciate UCLA’s decision not to force lifestyle choices on community members by issuing citations or fining smokers, the university’s moderate push for a healthier campus could be strengthened by more proactive educational outreach.
After all, the most fundamental motivation behind the tobacco-free policy is a good one. The policy aligns with UCLA’s Healthy Campus Initiative, which aims to promote physical, emotional and environmental wellness on campus.
The university’s decision to focus on signage and resources for students to quit smoking is a good start to promoting a smoke-free campus.
However, the Tobacco-Free Steering Committee needs to take more initiative in partnering with the Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center to make educational resources more present on the Hill and on campus.
Since early January, the Ashe Center has made free two-week nicotine replacement starter kits available to students who wish to quit smoking. In addition, ash trays on campus are now decorated with signs that direct students to a website to learn more about how to quit smoking.
While these resources are valuable, they are still too passive to effect a change in behavior on campus.
The Ashe Center should set up a table on Bruin Walk to hand out nicotine patches or gum and answer questions about smoking cessation. The center could also provide residential assistants on the Hill with nicotine patches to be distributed to residents who wish to quit smoking.
Meanwhile, the Tobacco-Free Steering Committee could set up informational booths in areas of the campus, like the steps outside of Powell Library, where many people tend to smoke.
Further, studies have also shown that smoking bans moderately enforced through education, like the one at UCLA, can have positive long-term effects.
A 2012 study on college tobacco bans found that such policies led to a decrease in the frequency of smoking, and a shift in attitudes regarding smoking.
The university’s middle ground approach to working toward a smoke-free campus is a wise choice but should be built upon with more visible educational resources.