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Gov. Brown Passes Restrictive Tobacco Laws, UC Offers Anti-Smoking Fellowships

By Nicole Wong

The University of California announced plans early this month to initiate a program that will provide four $12,000 UC Smoke and Tobacco-Free Student Fellowships to undergraduates and graduates dedicating research to improving anti-smoking measures on college campuses.

The program, sponsored by the UC Smoke and Tobacco-Free Task Force, aims to improve public health on UC campuses and is another measure being taken in recent years to reduce the hazardous effects of tobacco products.

In 2014, the University of California implemented a smoke-free policy on all UC owned and leased campuses and facilities.

“UC and California have been at the forefront of tobacco control at a national and global level,” said Dr. Michael Ong,  chair of UCLA’s Tobacco-Free Task Force and California’s Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee, in a press release.

To be considered for the fellowships, students must conduct year-long projects, meet with mentors, and take part in their campus smoke and tobacco-free task force. All projects must be completed and final reports submitted by Spring Quarter 2017.

In the two days following news of the fellowship program, California Governor Jerry Brown passed a number of bills designed to reduce health effects due to cigarette and tobacco use.

Plans include raising the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21 and increasing the number of smoke-free zones in public areas.

Smoking is already prohibited in places of employment, but new laws will expand these efforts by including owner-operated businesses and enclosed spaces such as parking lots, lobbies, stairs, and restrooms as smoke-free zones.

Additionally, public spaces will be designated as smoke-free to cut down on the amount of secondhand smoke that can generate severe health problems to the general population exposed.

Funding to implement tobacco-free campus policies in school districts will be extended to include charter schools as well.

One new bill also requires cigarette and tobacco product retailers to obtain separate licenses for each retail location and pay a $265 license application fee. Wholesale distributors must pay a $1200 application fee instead of the existing $1000 fee.

Furthermore, as new and more popular methods such as vaping are on the rise, the bills strive to redefine the terms “smoking” and “tobacco product” to include electronic devices containing tobacco or nicotine that create an aerosol or vapor.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking is the number one preventable cause of death in the United States. Smoking results in 480,000 deaths per year, which is more than drug and alcohol use, car accidents, HIV, and shooting incidents combined. Additionally, smoking increases the risk of heart disease and stroke by 2 to 4 times and the risk of developing lung cancer 25 times.

“We’re excited to be able to support students through fellowships that will help ensure UC is smoke and tobacco-free,” said Ong. “We look forward to their most creative ideas on handling these challenging issues and products.”