Thompson: National Public Health Week underscores why smoking ban is good for CSU

Madison Thompson

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

It’s National Public Health Week, so take the time to recognize public health around you. It’s given you vaccines, fluoride water, seatbelts, dietary guidelines — the list goes on. 

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Smoke free zones are another example of public health because they prevent exposure to second-hand smoke and somewhat discourages cigarette smoking.

One issue in particular that’s been in the spotlight recently is the use of vaping products, such as JUULs among the younger generations.

In January, former Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order which banned tobacco products on all state property, including Colorado State University’s campus. The Associated Students of Colorado State University Senate passed a resolution to formally reject the order on the grounds that it’s discriminatory against students, staff and faculty with nicotine addictions.

This may be true, but the potential for others to become addicted as smoking is normalized is not a risk worth taking to benefit a smaller group of people. Cigarette and vape smoke is a nuisance to those who don’t smoke. There are countless studies proving the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.

If people want to smoke on campus, they’re going to. Banning it will just make them sneakier, which is a positive because then non-smokers won’t be exposed as often.

Vaping among young people is an epidemic in Colorado. A recent survey found that more than a quarter of teens say they currently use an electronic vapor product, making Colorado number one out of 37 states surveyed. That’s double the national average.

Some of the state’s public health leaders saw public policy as the clear of driver teen vaping trends. Colorado was an early test market for vaping products,  according to R.J. Ours, Colorado government relations director with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. The product had more time to permeate the demographic than other states.

“Nicotine is known to be highly addictive and negatively affects the developing brain of youth and young adults more than older adults,” wrote Schur, referencing the 2016 CDC and Surgeon General’s Report E-Cigarette Use Among Youth. “Use can prime the brain for use of other addictive substances, reduced impulse control, mood disorders and deficits in attention and cognition.”

If people want to smoke on campus, they’re going to. Banning it will just make them sneakier which is a positive because then non-smokers won’t be exposed as often.

We practically eradicated smoking in one generation, so the prevalence of teen vaping is discouraging. The main concern of public health professionals is that vaping will take us ten steps back into the 1970s when 45 percent of people were smokers.

Tobacco is also relatively cheap in Colorado. A pack of four JUUL pods costs about $16. It’s the nicotine equivalent of four packs of traditional cigarettes that would cost about $24.

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The regional director with the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Jodi Radke, points out that teens “respond most heavily to taxation and price increases on tobacco.” If we want to make a difference in the prevalence of teen vaping, we need legislation that makes it less accessible to begin with, not punish those who are addicted.

The Center for Disease Control reports that a JUUL pod, which is a popular vaping device among young people, can contain 20 times the nicotine as a regular cigarette. Colorado also has the highest rate of teen vaping in the nation.

But I think that’s the point. The less conducive your environment becomes to your behavior, the less likely you are to partake in those behaviors due to the increased factor of risk.

Instead of viewing it as a discriminatory policy against those with nicotine addiction, it’s better understood as a burden on those who don’t smoke and don’t wish to start. Perhaps CSU could find an alternative way to help students quit smoking, like promoting the Tobacco Cessation Program offered at the Health Center. 

The passing of the resolution will encourage CSU to refrain from enacting policies in support of the order. Clauses that would establish smoking zones on campus were not included in the final resolution, but should be considered in the coming months.

Madison Thompson can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online @heyymadison.