Northern California colleges move towards tobacco free campuses

The effort to make college campuses tobacco free is taking place at institutions across California, including Lassen Community College.

The Smoke Free High County project is a division of the California Health Collaborative and is supporting Lassen Community College, Feather River College, and College of the Siskiyous in their efforts to improve campus health by reducing tobacco use. The project is leading college task forces, hiring a paid college health advocacy coordinator at each campus, and hosting events, such as the Earth Day trash pickup competition, that provide health education and promote cessation services.

The first major move towards tobacco-free campuses was in 2014 when the UC system banned tobacco use on all its campuses. In 2017 the CSU system followed. Additionally, 66 percent of community colleges are now tobacco-free. This trend toward healthier campuses is now growing in Northern California community colleges.

Recently, to celebrate Earth Day, nearby schools FRC and Siskiyous hosted trash pickup competitions, sponsored by the Smoke Free High Country Project, and the grand prizes were awarded to the teams that picked up the most tobacco waste. In just one hour, over 150 pounds of trash were collected, including vapes, cigarette butts, and dip cans.

Tobacco use rates in Northern California are nearly double the state average due to the inequities associated with rural life. A staggering 99 percent of adults who smoke start before age of 26.

Physiological addiction to nicotine makes quitting extremely difficult. An average person takes 10 attempts before successfully quitting, which indicates just how essential tobacco-free policies are to remove triggers and help smokers quit.

While big tobacco has long marketed the idea that tobacco reduces stress, that is a myth. Nicotine addiction both increases stress and reduces the ability of the user to effectively deal with stressful situations. This means that by helping students quit tobacco and creating tobacco-free campus policies to reduce the likelihood of students becoming addicted, colleges will increase the likelihood of students graduating. With the invention of e-cigarette technology, nicotine addiction among high school students, which had been on the decline for decades, has shot back up to 38.9 percent. This is why taking action at college campuses is now more important than ever.

For more information, follow the effort on Facebook and Instagram @smokefreehighcountry or get involved by contacting Smoke Free High Country’s Project Director, Amanda Berryhill at [email protected] The health collaborative is recruiting paid part-time college health advocacy coordinators that attend one of the colleges involved in the project.