Haley Kaplan, Matthew Mata, Tera Thompson-Garner, and Destiny Velazquez
USF implemented a campus-wide smoking ban in August, in hopes of bettering both student and faculty wellness. However, some student smokers believe the ban interferes with more than their health. All students interviewed cited common themes of community, a place to smoke without judgment, feelings of alienation and misunderstandings towards the reasons they smoke as reasons the ban isn’t working for them. Those are the things they mentioned they feel the ban doesn’t recognize. The smokers interviewed are too young to legally purchase cigarettes in California and will be represented by initials to remain anonymous.
Both critics and supporters are reluctant to call the “Breathe Easy Campaign” a success. While the campus ban on tobacco and vaping is backed by both ASUSF Senate and the administration, many student smokers consider the prohibition’s objective deficient. “I don’t think they are enforcing it correctly and I don’t think it’s going to help people quit,” said H., who has been smoking on and off since age twelve. Designated smoking areas began to close in 2016 preceding the complete ban in effect this semester, but smokers can still be regularly seen lighting up around campus.
A., who has been smoking for five years, picked up their first cigarette because of stress. “Smoking is the least bad thing that I am doing,” said A. “Just because you need to cope and deal with the things that have gone on in life and people just see it as dumb kids versus a kid who’s felt a lot of pain,” they said.
Natalie Macias, Breathe Easy’s campaign head and Assistant Director of Health Promotions Services, said they have created resources to help students as they struggle to quit. “We offer one-on-one smoking cessation appointments for any student if they are just thinking about quitting, for about 30-40 minutes. We meet them where they’re at. If they are not sure they want to quit, that’s fine. They’re already taking the first steps,” she said.
“In regards to education, we just want to provide them with the space to talk through triggers” Macias added. Triggers are stressors that increase the desire to smoke. She connects students to CASA, hands out tracker workbooks where students can write down their cravings, and when necessary, provides students with free nicotine replacements. In this past week Macias has had appointments with two students interested in quitting. She also meets with a few students on a regular basis to provide support.
USF provides personal counseling and quitting resources for student smokers that are interested through Health Promotion Services. But many students are either unaware of the services provided or don’t think it will make a difference. Others do not resonate with Health Promotion Service’s outreach. “It’s just little cliché, said D, another student smoker. “And you know, there’s a pamphlet for everything. I’ve seen it all before. I know what smoking does. I don’t need a goody bag. I know all my options. That’s where the policy falls short — like come on, you should know all the students know this stuff.”
The four interviewees also mentioned a stigma attached to smoking. “When I tell people I smoke sometimes they’ll look at me like I’m dirty and it’s not like that,” said C. after describing her experience smoking even prior to the ban. They feel as if the ban now perpetuates the stigma.
Macias says she recognizes that it is impossible to get a hundred percent of the student and faculty population to quit smoking cigarettes, but hopes to create a campus where smokers understand and respect others’ dislike of smoke and butts on the ground. Starting Oct. 26, USF volunteers will participate in a monthly campus-wide butt clean up day to ease the tension between smokers and those concerned about smoke.