Commentary: You Can Quit, We Can Help

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If you’re an unabashed, committed smoker who will puff away until the day you die, the upcoming campus-wide smoking ban in fall will undoubtedly inconvenience you. You’ll have to walk all the way off campus to smoke your tobacco.

But I don’t really care about you.

I care about the nearly 70 percent of smokers who want to break free from their addiction, according to the Center for Disease Control. I care about the fact that on any given attempt to quit, the average smoker only has about a 6 percent chance of succeeding, according to CDC research.

Smokers who want to quit are the vulnerable party here. They’re the ones who struggle every day with their addiction — nicotine cravings and withdrawal. They’re the ones whom the campus is obligated to support, and the question is, does banning smoking help them or hurt them?

The goal of City College should be to provide an environment that best supports its population of students. When we look at the current campus climate, however, there’s something bizarre going on. The campus provides both free cessation services and Designated Smoking Areas, which sends a mixed message.

The first message: You can quit, and we can help you.

And the second message? You can’t do it. You can try, but you will fail.

Sure, nicotine is more addictive than cocaine, according to a 2013 review by G.M. Heyman.  And sure, most people don’t kick their addiction on the first try. But should we constantly remind smokers of that? Even though failure is statistically probable, the environment smokers live in still dramatically influences their chance of success.

So how can we make it easier for the 70 percent of smokers who want to quit?

We start by not being enablers. That’s what the Designated Smoking Areas are doing — enabling nicotine addiction. The DSAs are your friends who say, “OK, as long as you promise to quit tomorrow,” or “You know I don’t like that you smoke, but I guess you can still do it here.”

Banning smoking on campus makes it easier for smokers to quit.

It means one less excuse for smokers to smoke. One less voice in their ears telling them that their addiction is inescapable. One more place they can safely go without facing the temptation to smoke.

Smoking is legal, and you have a right to do it. But when you smoke, you impact everyone who sees you. The woman who fought to make it one week without a cigarette. The man whose daughter wants him to quit. The high school student visiting City College for the first time.

So is it a bit harsh to not allow smoking on campus? Probably.
But is it worth it? So that smokers who want to quit aren’t faced with their demons as they walk to class? So that these people, climbing the ladder toward cessation, aren’t reminded exactly how far they have to fall every time they step outside?
If you ask me, it’s worth it. And City College agrees with me.

That’s why the campus has provided free smoking cessation services for years — because they strive to help students lead healthier, more successful lives. If you’re interested in the free service, drop into the campus Health Office, Rodda North 125, for help.

City College has always given the people of Sacramento the opportunity to make change in their own lives, and banning smoking lets us remain true to that goal. We want to better ourselves, and this is the place to do it.

So this fall, when City College becomes a smoke-free campus, we aren’t telling smokers that they’re not welcome. We’re letting them know they can beat this.

For more information about cessation services, visit the school’s website at scc.losrios.edu/healthservices/smoking-cessation-resources/.

And for other sources about smoking:

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6044a2.htm

http://findings.org.uk/PHP/dl.php?file=Heyman_GM_1.txt