UCF students left words of encouragement on nearly 100 blue and purple sticky notes Thursday during the seventh annual Great American Smokeout event, aimed at motivating students to quit smoking or lend a word of inspiration to those pledging to quit.
Hosted by Student Health Services (SHS) and the Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) at UCF, the Great American Smokeout takes place across the country with support from the American Cancer Society as a part of November’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
Posters with the questions “Why do you want to quit smoking?” and “Why do you want to support someone to quit?” received responses on sticky notes from students reading "To become healthier," "To live longer," and "To not have the risk of developing cancer."
Juliana Carvalho, a hospitality management major, wrote that she supports others to quit, “For their family and friends. It’s not going to bring anything good at the end.”
Yanelis Diaz, chair of SHAC’s smoke-free committee, said Thursday’s event helps smokers see that the UCF community wants to offer them support in their decision to quit.
Five years ago, UCF implemented the Smoke-Free Policy following the “Catch Your Breath” campaign, aimed at reducing the amount of cigarette smoking and trash around campus areas and the promotion of healthier lifestyles and clean air. According to Student Development and Enrollment Services' Smoke-Free FAQ, the policy bans smoking on all UCF property, including parking garages and buildings, and applies to all students, employees, vendors and other visitors.
However, the policy is not punitive, meaning violators are not fined and do not face punishment.
Diaz, a health services administration and biology major, said she wants to represent the student body as much as possible when it comes to modifying the Smoke-Free Policy.
“We all want to work together to make sure that we capture the student body’s voice,” Diaz, 21, said. “We need to find out how opinions have changed in the five years since the policy was implemented.”
Jamal McBroom, a political science major, said it may be hard to enforce the Smoke-Free Policy on campus but he would like UCF to “go all in” with its policy.
“If you’re going to be a ‘smoke-free campus,’ then that’s what you should be,” McBroom, 22, said.
In April, students participating in UCF’s fifth annual Butt Cleanup event gathered about 10.5 pounds of cigarette trash. However, members of SHS have noted that the amount of cigarettes collected has decreased over the years.
Following the implementation of the Smoke-Free Policy in August 2012, Mary Owens, the associate director of UCF’s Medical and Health Administration, said she felt it was successful in reducing smoking and cigarette trash around campus.
Five years later, she said she has still noticed a significant decrease in students smoking.
“We’ve seen tremendous decrease in those students reporting everyday use from just over 3 percent in 2012, down to just over 1 percent in 2016,” Owens said, citing the National Health Assessment survey of UCF students. “We’ve also seen an increase in policy support from when it went into effect, which began with 88 percent [of students] supporting, and this past year with 93 percent [of students] supporting.”
Several UCF students said they have seen cigarette use less often on campus, but that they have also seen more people using vape pens or electronic cigarettes.
Sophomore Noy Mizrachi, a graphic design and computer science major, said she spends most of her time around the Engineering building on UCF’s main campus, which she said she finds to be constantly littered with cigarette trash.
“Maybe vaping is better because people don’t leave trash around and the smell doesn’t impact people the way secondhand smoking does,” Mizrachi, 19, said.
Owens said the introduction of e-cigarettes complicates the Smoke-Free Policy because the policy does not give specifics as to what smoking devices are prohibited, other than actual cigarettes.
“It’s easier said than done," Owens said. “In the past five years, e-cigarettes have become more popular. To put punitive measures in place, it needs to be 100 percent effective because we don’t want it to backfire.”
Diaz said the Smoke-Free Policy will be up for review in spring 2018.
“Where we are right now is a good place because we’ve seen the drop in smokers on our campus,” said Owens. “My hopeful dream is that one day, [smoking on campus] will stop altogether.”