Group hopes to make UAA campus smoke-free

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Students and faculty are behind a push to make the University of Alaska Anchorage the first smoke-free campus in the state.

The goal is to get student support in order to get the issue before UAA Chancellor Tom Case, KTUU reported.

Smoking is currently banned within 20 feet of entrances to UAA facilities.

“Right now we have a UAA smoke-free task force,” Gabrial Garcia, a public health professor, said. “Everybody knows that smoking is bad for your health. It causes lung cancer and other respiratory disease; everyone has the right to breathe clean air.”

The student task force has a goal of making UAA entirely smoke-free by 2015, and hopes to take the proposed change to Case this week.

“By implementing a policy like this we can make sure we can protect everyone from the dangers of smoking, and we can also introduce a culture of nonsmoking on campus,” Garcia said.

The state Department of Health and Social Services said the largest group of smokers are those from 18-24.

Marge Stoneking, with the American Lung Association, said that’s a direct result of targeted advertising by tobacco companies.

“Many people are becoming smokers at the young adult age on campus due to the influence of the industry and the environments,” Stoneking said.

One student on the smoke-free committee knows it may be difficult for some students if the change is implemented.

“Basically there’s a lot of students that say it would be hard for them to cope with the smoke-free policy, because they don’t want to go somewhere else to smoke,” Yesenia Camarena said.

The committee said a recent survey found 80 percent of UAA students do not smoke.

“They are ready to make this a smoke-free campus. They want everyone to be healthy, they want everyone to be supporting something positive for our smoke-free initiative,” Camarena said.

The group would like the university’s satellite campuses to be smokeless by 2016.

Efforts across the state to make events or facilities smoke-free have had mixed results. In Anchorage, Providence Alaska Medical Center, Alaska Regional Hospital and the Alaska Native Medical Center all have smoke-free campuses, and this year, the Kenai Peninsula Fair went smoke-free.

However, in Kodiak earlier this summer, the borough assembly didn’t advance a measure to voters on a wide sweeping ban would have prohibited smoking in bars, restaurants, public places like parks and businesses, like fishing boats.

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