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UPDATED: Tobacco-free policy takes effect Jan. 1

By Dave Jones on December 18, 2013 in University News


UC Davis and the UC system have multiple resources to assist students, staff and faculty members who want to give up tobacco.

And they are almost certainly going to need the help. Studies show low success rates for people who try to stop smoking without support or the medications that relieve withdrawal symptoms, said Linda Sarna, a UCLA professor of nursing who has studied nurses’ involvement in helping people quit.

“Nicotine addiction makes quitting smoking very difficult,” said Sarna, who chaired the task force that worked on implementing the smoke- and tobacco-free policy at UCLA.

“There are still lots of misconceptions about quitting by going ‘cold turkey,’” she said.

Only three to five people out of 100 are smoke-free a year after going cold turkey, studies show. In many cases, quitting for good may take five or six attempts.

So, where can you go for help, as UC Davis staff or faculty?

• Free nicotine replacement therapy — Starting in January, students, staff and faculty can get a free two-week supply of nicotine replacement therapy from Rite Aid Pharmacy, 655 Russell Blvd. (and only at this Rite Aid location), to help fight cravings. Just show your UC Davis ID when picking them up.

• Your medical plan — Every UC-sponsored medical plan in the new year will offer prescription nicotine replacement therapies, such as nicotine inhalers and sprays, at no cost when prescribed by a doctor.

2014 tobacco cessation resources provided by UC-sponsored medical plans

2013 tobacco cessation resources provided by UC-sponsored medical plans

Free smoking cessation programs offered by Health Management and Education (UC Davis Health System), free for UC Davis employees

• Need to talk? — The Academic and Staff Assistance Program offers free, confidential counseling for faculty and staff adapting to a tobacco-free workday.

• Students — Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Intervention Services, online, or call (530) 752-6334 for one-on-one assistance and to learn about free tobacco cessation services available to all registered students, including a four-week supply of nicotine replacement products (gum, patches or lozenges). 

Help lines (operated out of UC San Diego)

More resources, including mobile apps, can be found on this UC website.

Editor's note: This story has been updated (Dec. 18) with remarks from John Stobo, UC's senior vice president for Health Sciences and Services.

By Dateline staff

The Davis campus goes smoke- and tobacco-free indoors and out in 2014, and stands ready to help students, staff and faculty who may find the prohibition difficult to live with.

All other UC campuses are also going smoke- and tobacco-free, or have already done so, under a directive from then-UC President Mark G. Yudof in January 2012. At the time, all five UC medical centers had already gone smoke-free, everywhere.

The UC Davis Health System enacted its smoke- and tobacco-free policy in July 2008. Meanwhile, the Davis campus retained its longtime ban on smoking indoors and in certain places outdoors.

The Davis campus policy gets revised effective Jan. 1: Smoking and the use of any other tobacco products will not be allowed anywhere, even parking lots (and inside cars, whether moving or stationary).

• No inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying a lighted or heated product such as tobacco, marijuana or other smokeable substance, or instruments that hold such substances.

• No smokeless tobacco, including chew, snus and snuff.

• No electronic cigarettes.

The policy applies to all students, staff, faculty and visitors, and makes no provision for designated smoking areas.

"This is a major change for many people and will require all members of the university community to be ambassadors for this initiative," John Stobo, UC's senior vice president for Health Sciences and Services, said in a statement issued today (Dec. 18). "The university is wholly committed to helping faculty, staff and students who want to quit smoking, by offering an extensive selection of cessation resources such as health plan benefit programs, one-on-one or group cessation and education, and referrals to cessation resources."

Davis campus officials said enforcement will initially be educational. People found smoking on campus will be offered information about the policy and about smoking cessation resources. After an initial phase-in period, additional reinforcement measures may be considered.

The goal? A campus where we can “Breathe Free,” as declared on UC Davis’ smoke- and tobacco-free website:

"Tobacco is the No. 1 cause of preventable disease and death worldwide," said Stobo, a physician. "The health risks of tobacco use for smokers and secondhand smoke for nonsmokers are well established."

He also cited environmental concerns from chemicals in cigarette butts that can leach into soil and waterways.

Medical plan coverage

Staff and faculty can access tobacco cessation resources through any UC-sponsored 2014 medical plan.

Each plan in the new year will offer prescription nicotine replacement therapies, such as nicotine inhalers and sprays, at no cost.

Over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies, such as nicotine patches and gum, when prescribed by a doctor, will be available at the generic copay price for employees enrolled in UC Care, Health Net Blue and Gold, and Western Health Advantage. (Kaiser members have no copay.)

For employees in the Core plan and the Blue Shield Health Savings Plan, OTC therapies are subject to deductibles and co-insurance.

Other campuses report positive results

UCLA, UC San Diego and UCSF implemented their smoke- and tobacco-free policies earlier this year, with positive results.

Michael Ong, co-chair of the Tobacco-Free Task Force at UCLA, where the new policy took effect on Earth Day, April 22, said there has been a noticeable decline in smoking around campus. And, by counting cigarette butts in the campus’s smoking hot spots on a biweekly basis, UCLA found a reduction of about 74 percent — from an average of 600 butts before the policy took effect, to 160 after.

UC joins more than 1,100 other colleges and universities across the country that have banned smoking on their campuses, including in residence halls.

"The University of California is committed to maintaining a healthy and clean working and learning environment for our employees, students, patients and visitors," Stobo said. "As a leading education, research and service university, UC has taken a proactive role in addressing the impact of smoking and tobacco use.

"I would like to congratulate the University of California campuses for their successful implementation of this policy as part of their ongoing commitment to the health and well-being of the entire university community."

Dave Jones of Dateline UC Davis and Katherine Tam of the Office of the President contributed to this report.

More online

Campuswide announcement of some- and tobacco-free initiative

Breathe Free UC Davis (including the policy, frequently asked questions and a resource page titled “Ready to Quit?”)

UC Smoke and Tobacco Free Policy (including a fact sheet and quick facts)

Follow Dateline UC Davis on Twitter.

Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,