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Professor aims to fire up interest in smoking policy

By Amy Agronis on April 13, 2001 in University News

Some days anthropology professor Peter Rodman could swear someone is smoking right outside his second floor office in Young Hall. It's an aggravating sensation, he said.

"My pulse elevates, and I find myself not breathing deeply, which all contributes to a general feeling of anxiety," Rodman said.

In fact, students and employees are smoking in the building's courtyard. Despite a "No Smoking" sign, they light up near a fresh air intake, which carries the smoky air inside.

For several years Rodman has waged a one-man battle to toughen UC Davis' smoke-free policy, which generally prohibits smoking in and around campus buildings. Rodman would like the code to specify smoke-free perimeters around buildings. And he'd like more signs around campus to remind the university community about the policy.

Lately he's gained some supporters on and off campus.

Since February, he's convened a group of students and staff, as well as anti-smoking advocates from Yolo County and the California Youth Advocacy Network, an anti-tobacco project of the state Department of Health Services.

The ad hoc committee - which has included Carl Foreman, acting director of environmental health and safety, and Pat Lindsay and Michelle Famula, administrators from Cowell Student Health Center - seeks to educate the university community about the campus policy. UC Davis' guidelines, adopted in 1998, are vague, and difficult to enforce, Rodman believes.

According to the campus Policy and Procedures Manual, the "policy relies on the consideration and cooperation of smokers and non-smokers." Anyone who sees a person smoking in violation of the policy is asked to tell him or her to move to an area where smoking is allowed. Employees who violate the policy are accountable to their supervisors.

"I'm getting pretty nice about it," Rodman said. "But it's hard to go up to someone, and say, 'Please stop smoking.'"

Foreman sees nothing wrong with UC Davis' smoke-free policy. "We are not going to be the smoke police," he said.

The problem is getting all members of the campus community to take responsibility for upholding the policy, Foreman said.

"We are not going to stop you (from smoking), but you need to have courtesy and consideration," he said. "You have your rights, but you also have your responsibilities."

One action Foreman will recommend, with the help of the campus Grounds unit, is the moving of cigarette "butt cans" farther away from buildings. Smokers will typically congregate during breaks wherever those cans are located, he said.

With the help of Yolo County, Rodman and group members are also working on a couple of education campaigns.

Earlier this year he decided to contact county Health Program Coordinator Steve Jensen about the smoking policy issue. Rodman's concerns about the issue fit right in with the Health Department's interest in fighting environmental smoke hazards, Jensen said.

Starting the end of April and continuing through graduation, the county - with funding from Proposition 99, the state tobacco tax - will run an ad in The California Aggie two to three days a week urging students to uphold the campus policy.

The county office is also applying for a statewide grant offering money to local colleges and universities and chambers of commerce to educate 18-to-24-year-olds about smoking dangers.

Eventually Rodman would like the group to work on revisions to the smoke-free policy. He'd like to see specific smoke-free zones established around campus buildings. UC Santa Cruz, for example, prohibits smoking within 25 feet of university buildings and air intakes. The campus also has numerous signs identifying building air intakes.

"When I heard that, I said, 'If another UC campus can do it, why can't we do it here?'" Rodman said.

Foreman believes the group's biggest weapon in responsible smoking will be education. The UC Davis Medical Center created a designated covered smoking area at its Broadway Building parking lot to move smokers away from the building. Kaiser Permanente attempted a "smoke-free campus" policy at one of its Sacramento facilities. Neither proved effective, said Foreman.

"It's going to take time, but if we have signs and fliers, (the message) is going to catch on," Foreman said.

The tobacco education group meets each first Thursday of the month at 11 a.m. in 224 Young Hall. For more information, e-mail Rodman at psrodman@ucdavis.edu.

The UC Davis Smoke-Free Policy is available online at http://www.mrak.ucdavis. edu/web-mans/ppm/290/290-10.htm.

Media contact(s)

Amy Agronis, Dateline, (530) 752-1932, abagronis@ucdavis.edu

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