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Student Health Advocacy Committee asks ASUA to support Tobacco-Free Initiative

The ASUA Senate discussed the possibility of turning the UA into a tobacco-free campus at its weekly meeting Wednesday night.

The Student Health Advocacy Committee proposed a plan to start the Tobacco-Free Initiative on campus as soon as possible.

SHAC works in cooperation with ASUA to provide assistance and awareness to students about campus health services. The committee is comprised of 35 members that organize and participate in health-related events like eating disorders, mental health, cooking, nutrition and disease prevention.

Its most recent project is the Tobacco-Free Initiative, which would ban the use of any tobacco products on the UA campus including cigarettes, chew, and hookah. SHAC plans to propose an amendment to the current UA tobacco policy rather than propose an entirely.

“Both cigarette smoking and tobacco-use have been scientifically proven to be detrimental to your health,” said Leena Patel, a public health senior and director of SHAC. “As students of the University of Arizona, we want to eliminate secondhand-smoke on campus while also promoting better lifestyle choices.”

Currently, the UA Health Sciences Center campus is tobacco-free and SHAC would like to implement the policy to include the main campus as soon as possible, Patel said.

As of Jan. 2, there were 1,129 smoke-free campuses in the nation, according to a study conducted by the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, including Pac-12 school University of Oregon. Arizona State University has also recently announced that its campus will become tobacco-free starting Aug. 1.

“These are all campuses that we hold ourselves to compare with and who are Pac-12 schools,” Patel said. “We don’t want to be below them, we want to be able to compete with them, and this is one of those initiatives.”

SHAC proposed that the ASUA Senate pass a senate resolution advocating in favor of a tobacco-free policy for the UA, to prove that there is support from the general student body on this issue to the Faculty Senate and President Ann Weaver Hart.

“The whole thing we are looking for is the student voice,” said Shanan Immel, a microbiology sophomore and a member of SHAC’s Pandemic and Epidemic Prevention team. “That is what they want to hear. Not just that one committee thinks it’s important but that you guys think its important.”

SHAC plans to propose an amendment to the current UA tobacco policy rather than propose an entirely new policy with the hopes of getting it approved and implemented faster, said Stephanie Kha a biochemistry sophomore and member of SHAC’s Health and Wellness Commitee.

In terms of enforcement, Kha said, SHAC proposed that the university take an approach of promoting awareness of the policy throughout campus rather than directly disciplining individuals who disobey it.

“I actually think that it’s going to be easier to enforce,” Sen. Alex Chang said. “Because with the whole 50 feet away from buildings people don’t necessarily care about that, and if everyone knows it’s not something that’s allowed on campus I think people will get a lot more judgmental and they won’t be as inclined to smoke on campus.”

SHAC will also advocate for support from the Graduate and Professional Student Council on this initiative.

The senate approved the addition of a Wildcat Events Board Fee onto the ASUA March ballot and UA Libraries requested funding for additional services and supplies. It was also introduced to a new UA website, EcoPower, that will debut Friday as well as a new Facebook page called, UA Listens.

An earlier version of this blog post incorrectly stated that the senate voted to approve a resolution of support for the initiative. Although the senate discussed taking official action, the senate will not consider passing the resolution until its next meeting. The post has been updated to reflect this correction.

An earlier version of this blog post incorrectly stated that Leena Patel was a public health junior. Patel is a senior. The post has been updated to reflect this correction.


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