As Americans, we place an enormous amount of emphasis on health. We seek health so that we can maximize our days and years spent on this earth. Yet, many of us understand the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle but don’t know the specifics of what that entails. As family members at home, we want to live healthy. As customers at restaurants, we want to eat healthy. Unfortunately, there is one major culprit that stands in the way of public health: the use of tobacco products.
Fortunately, there are people who are big-hearted and dedicated enough to help combat the use of tobacco products. In early March, led by Robin Evans-Agnew, Assistant Professor of Nursing and Healthcare Leadership partnered with Partnership in Action to Transform Healthcare and Tobacco-Free Alliance of Pierce County. UWT Bachelors of Science in Nursing sought support from students and faculty members for an initiative to call for a fresh air campus here at the University of Washington Tacoma. It’s a “task force” said Micha Hipolito RN, a senior, and Vasiliy Olar RN said it was to “build awareness of the health consequence of tobacco exposure and pollution” and to influence policy changes to make a healthier UWT campus.
The initiative proposed “prohibitions on the use, the sale, and the free distribution of tobacco and nicotine products on campus” said John Kagwe RN, a senior. They also suggested that university-run publications don’t contain tobacco advertisements. In the meantime, they called for promoting tobacco cessation services and products through university health services. The initiative collected 116 signatures and got support from the Associated Students of the UWT. Now, a decision is up to the UW Environmental Health and Safety.
“We are in a tobacco hotspot here on campus,” said Maria Rubino RN, a senior. Rubino revealed a number that could weary us—smoking in Pierce County is 20 percent higher than the state average, which is 16 percent. More people die of heart disease in our neighborhood than in any other area of the country. This is a picture of how smoking harms, especially those of us attending UWT, where 100 of the 718 people the nursing students surveyed on campus smoke. If we fail to act, more people will suffer.
Even the Grand Staircase is among the zones where you can’t smoke. But it seems people don’t know or just don’t care.“We need to help them realize we all share the air, and we all need to ‘keep it fresh’” said Messay Belachew RN, senior. People need to learn that our campus isn’t the right place to light a cigarette. However, people have been seen “vaping in many areas such as classrooms, the library, or around campus” said Shellie Dela Cruz RN, a senior.
This initiative doesn’t call for punishment or restricts freedom. “It’s about the education,” said Chloe Forman RN, a senior. This movement is here to “help you quit tobacco” said Forman, to make you a better person who care for yourself and others.
This initiative is a wake-up call for us. Once another individual’s action endangers us, it’s no longer a matter of their rights or personal convenience. We aren’t just individuals, we are also citizens. We can’t let one personal hobby worsen a place that is shared. We can start building a healthier community by making UWT, which is a crown jewel of Tacoma, a healthier campus.