Thomas Hall, Staff writer hall.tom5@gmail.com

The mission of NUVU is to persuade the Utah Valley University administration to adopt a comprehensive tobacco-free policy. The mission is designed to support the Utah Department of Health and the Utah County Health Department in achieving the goal “To create an anti-tobacco social media campaign, targeting at-risk 18-24 year olds in Utah County.” Because our student body fits the goal of the target demographic there is no better way to get involved than by affecting change at the UVU policy level.

NUVU stands for Non-Tobacco Utah Valley University. It was conceived of by a group of community health majors for a social marketing class but after support and interest from other students and faculty, the idea has taken root outside of the classroom. In the state of Utah it is estimated that 6.5% of young adults engage in smoking. While this number is significantly lower than the national averages, it is nonetheless a concern to the health of our student body the health of our community.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “in 2011, the tobacco industry spent $8.4 billion on cigarette advertising and promotional expenses in the United States alone.”

“According to a report from the Surgeon General of the United States, any exposure to secondhand smoke is dangerous to the human body, including incidental exposure as you walk past someone smoking,” said Dr. James Bemel of the Department of Public and Community Health at UVU.

“Furthermore, students with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma shouldn’t be forced to find alternate routes entering or exiting a building in an effort to avoid tobacco smoke which may exacerbate their symptoms. Everyone has the right to breathe clean air and avoid being exposed to the deadly chemicals found in tobacco smoke.”

We can be a part of making our campus and our community safe from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke by choosing to adopt a tobacco-free policy at UVU. A student led and student driven campaign is the best way to make a change.

Research done by the CDC shows that, “Each year, primarily because of exposure to secondhand smoke, an estimated 3,000 nonsmoking Americans die of lung cancer, more than 46,000 die of heart disease, and about 150,000–300,000 children younger than 18 months have lower respiratory tract infections.  Coupled with this enormous health toll is the significant economic burden of tobacco use—more than $96 billion a year in medical costs and another $97 billion a year from lost productivity.”

The list of tobacco-free colleges and universities grows longer every year.  In a recent (2013) study by the American College Health Association (ACHA), it was documented that there are approximately, “…1,178 100% smoke-free campuses… [And] of these, 793 have a 100% tobacco-free policy.”

The only school in the state of Utah that makes the ACHA list is Brigham Young University. The tobacco-free program at BYU is simple; prior to enrollment at BYU, students are interviewed and given a signed ecclesiastical endorsement. This document serves as an admission by the student that they are actively living the Honor Code and that they intend to continue living the Honor Code while a student at BYU. The Honor Code program is an extension of the university’s core Latter-day Saint tenets to live a healthy life free from alcohol consumption and tobacco products in all their forms.

In the fall of 2013, Dixie State University in St. George, Utah, announced their campus policy change from permissible use 25 feet from a building entrance to a zero tobacco policy. The change came about slowly, buzz generated around the campus, then students joined together to help push the policy forward to their school administrators. The change to a tobacco-free policy joined Dixie State with BYU as the only two higher institutions of education in the state where tobacco is prohibited.

While Brigham Young University’s program is effective because of its religious foundations, it will not satisfy the needs of a state funded institution like Utah Valley University where there is greater religious freedom, expression and diversity.

It is necessary to establish a tobacco-free policy change at UVU to serve our unique Wolverine spirit. Old Joe Camel has to die.