Smoking ban effects on student health

Erica Terrini

News Editor

Since Virginia’s smoking ban went into effect Dec. 1, 2009, VCU students and health advisors have been voicing their opinions relating to the ban’s impact on public health.

According to smoking cessation information provided by The Wellness Resource Center, within a half-hour people can start to feel the effects of tobacco smoke, be it a headache or nasal congestion or similar symptoms.

The Well and Student Health Services offer resources for students looking to quit the habit by providing free quit kits, which include education pamphlets, free candy and silly putty.

Students can go to Student Health and set up an appointment for smoking cessation and receive medication to help them quit.

Outside of The Well, a peer education group called the Cancer Awareness Team focuses its efforts on cancer prevention and education and offers additional smoking cessation resources on campus.

Ariel Sierra, a senior mass communications major, Well employee and co-chair for the Relay for Life student organization said although she works at the front desk at the Well, she is equally committed to her work as the Relay for Life Chair for the CAT.

“Basically what the CAT tries to do is to promote awareness and education and advocacy about the main cancers that affect college-age students, which is lung cancer, cervical cancer, testicular cancer, breast cancer and skin cancer.”

Sierra said the ban has affected her work with Relay for Life.

“Obviously … the smoking ban has affected the way we promote information and advocacy on lung cancer,” Sierra said. “The smoking ban was started Dec. 1 and as the Relay for Life Chair, I’ve definitely had an easier time setting up promotions in restaurants and in bars, especially with survivors.”

According to Sierra, the survivors she worked with in the past have been skeptical with their involvement in the relay’s promotion.

“Not a lot of survivors want to go into a restaurant to have a banquet or a meeting where there’s smoking, just because they’ve been affected very personally or very heavily with cancer,” Sierra said. “It’s just an easier way for me to make things happen on a larger scale.”

According to The Well’s campus-wide health survey, students are healthier than people think.

Over the past three or four years, every year health educators say they have noticed the number of first-year students who smoke on a daily basis has decreased steadily. A few years ago, 13 percent of students were daily smokers and now daily smokers make up about eight percent of the student population.

However some students say while the smoking regulation is a good development, the ban is still inconvenient for some restaurant owners.

Chelsea Gilmour, a junior international studies major said her views of the ban depend on the type of establishment.

“I agree that you can’t smoke in restaurants,” Gilmour said. “Most people don’t like smoke around them when they’re eating. But for establishments that are mainly bars … for people that are smokers it seems inconvenient.”

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