Smoking to be Stopped on Library Walk

Don’t be fooled by the lofty title, the annual Great American Smokeout doesn’t ask much of its participants. All you have to do is be a smoker and quit for one day. If you’re feeling virtuous, you can donate the money you would have spent on cigarettes to the American Cancer Society Medical Research Fund. Nov. 15 will mark the 37th annual Smokeout, a national event. This will be the 12th time it’s being observed at UCSD.

The UCSD event will be especially eye-catching this year, volunteers for the Smokeout say, because of the University of California system-wide smoking ban that was announced this January by the Office of the President. Students caught smoking within campus limits will face a steep fine, whose dollar amount has not yet been determined. Cigarettes are already unavailable for purchase on campus. Individual campuses have until January 2014 to implement the ban.

“UCSD is different,” Akemi Brown, event coordinator for Student Health Advocates said. “We’re pushing to enact the ban earlier, at the start of the 2013-14 academic year.”

The activities will focus on the different aspects of smoking, and will be interactive and spread throughout the expanse of Library Walk, as it has in recent years.

Brown said the team of volunteers have decided to move away from the carnival-esque tone of last year’s event, in which participants were asked to participate in a bean bag toss and spin a ‘wheel of facts.’

“It was almost flippant last year. We don’t want it to be like that anymore. We’ll have personal stories, artwork and dramatic visuals. We want people to come to the Library Walk exhibit and walk away shocked, or at least affected in a profound way.”

Nationally, Smokeout day organizers are encouraged by the American Cancer Society to provide guidebooks, information about smoking cessation groups and nicotine replacement products for free. The booth will highlight the resources that are available to students seeking to quit, such as Nicotine Anonymous of La Jolla and the San Diego Smoke Stoppers.

“These are things people just don’t know about, even if they smoke and want to quit,” Brown said.

She cited a smoking cessation service offered by Student Health Services, that provides counseling, nicotine patches and gum — remarkably, at no cost to students.

At most events hosted by SHA volunteers on Library Walk in past years, the vast majority of passerby have been too busy to stop.

“The success is in the couple of students who do,” Brown said.

Brown said that pointing students in the direction of campus resources was only a part of the battle.

“We’re currently developing handout materials for an action plan. We want students to do something concrete with the information — quit themselves, or more commonly, get someone they love to quit.”

Ankur Chawla, a member of UCSD student organization Young Americans for Liberty, argued in a popular YouTube video, posted on May 22, 2010, when the ban was first proposed, that the smoking ban would be an infringement on student rights.

In the video, other unnamed members of YAL paraded down library walk holding posters that read, “Smoking is Healthier Than Fascism.”

“We’re not advocating smoking,” Chawla said. “We’re advocating the right to make your own choice. I personally have never smoked a cigarette in my life.”

Brown said that smokers and smoking advocates failed to understand the consequences of their actions.

“They say it’s a personal choice. But it’s not. Many of us [volunteers] have or had family members who’ve smoked. We had asthma, allergies, yellow fingernails growing up. Smoking affects others, and we want smokers to really understand that, this year.”