February 26, 2017

Clearing the Air

Yolanda (Linda) Reid Chassiakos, MD, FAAP 
Director and Medical Chief of Staff
Klotz Student Health Center
California State University Northridge  
Clinical Assistant Professor, Pediatrics
David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA. 

The CDC reports, “If smoking continues at the current rate among youth in this country, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 will die early from a smoking-related illness. That’s about 1 of every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger alive today.” 

Most new smokers start smoking as teens.  Per the CDC, “Nearly 9 out of 10 cigarette smokers first tried smoking by age 18, and 99% first tried smoking by age 26.

 My university, California State University Northridge in northern Los Angeles, wanted to “clear the air” - for non-smokers, as well as potential smokers - and promote a smoke-free, tobacco-free environment on campus.  Over 80% of our students, faculty, and staff supported a transition to a non-smoking policy.  So, working in partnership with the non-profit California Youth Advocacy Network and our sister campuses in the 23 campus CSU system, we developed a smoke-free, tobacco-free policy and implementation plan for a one year transition to clean air.  Our goals included reducing the effects of second-hand smoke, as well as limiting opportunities for youth to be “introduced” to cigarettes, tobacco, and e-cigarettes at school.

The phases of implementation were identified for our campus community and local neighbors as information, education, resources and support, and, finally, enforcement, as a last resort.  As a mediatrician serving as co-chair of the CSUN Becoming a Smoke Free Task Force and Implementation Committees, I recognized the critical importance of working with our communications department to develop messages that would reach our target audience; 

- social media posts on Facebook and Twitter, 
- public service announcements on our rock radio station, 
- text announcements to students,  
- videos on the campus website

all to complement an informative webpage with in-depth facts about the upcoming policy adoption and available resources for smoking cessation.
Our core website and the video can be viewed at http://www.csun.edu/clear-the-air 

This multifaceted digital media approach allowed us to reach a wide audience and direct those with questions and concerns, or who needed assistance with cessation or FDA approved nicotine replacement options, to the appropriated resources.  Additional steps included catalog revisions, website revisions, signage changes, removal of ashtrays, and smoke-free peer advocate outreach.  

But the media “push” helped us achieve our goals.  Our first year and a half of being smoke-free has demonstrated a compliance rate of over 95%.  

Mediatricians can serve as excellent guides to improve the public health not only for your practice, but for your local communities.  By using your skills and expertise in developing and sharing healthy messages, you can have a broad impact on the health and wellness of children, youth, and families beyond your office doors.