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Student-Led Survey Evaluates Students Perception on Smoking, Campus Ban

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Two CSUF students have taken the lead in developing, preparing and guiding a survey of their fellow Titans that asks the questions — Do you think there is a problem with smoking on campus? Do you smoke? And have you tried to quit?

And hundreds of students in classrooms throughout the campus are giving their responses.

The main drivers of the survey are this year’s co-presidents of the campus Fresh Air Advocates, Shaina Sta. Cruz, a graduating senior in communicative disorders, and Priyanka Taneja, who is studying for her master of public health degree.

“We wanted to find out what our fellow students think about smoking on campus — both smokers and nonsmokers,” said Sta. Cruz.  “How pervasive is smoking among students, have they tried to quit and why, and whether they would take advantage of free smoking/tobacco cessation programs offered either on- or off-campus.”

Cal State Fullerton has been a smoke-free campus since Aug. 1, 2013, following interim President Willie Hagan’s signing of a resolution to ban sales, as well as use of any tobacco products. In 2017, the California State University instituted a smoking ban across all of its 23 campuses.

When Sta. Cruz and Taneja came up with the idea of a survey in summer of 2016, they turned to Pearl Boelter, director of Environmental Health and Safety, and her staff; Laura Ross, the health educator in the Student Health and Wellness Center; and Shana Charles, assistant professor of health science with expertise in survey development and methodology.

“They have all been very supportive of our effort and given us suggestions and advice,” said Taneja. Boelter, who oversees the Fresh Air Advocates program, wrote the cover letter for the survey, while Charles helped the students develop the sampling methodology and Ross helped Sta. Cruz and Taneja develop the questions based from a review of similar previous surveys done elsewhere. The guidance continued through the review and approval process by the campus Institutional Review Board.

To maximize response rates to the survey and ensure a random selection of students, Charles recommended reaching out to faculty members for permission to give the survey in-person to students in their classroom.

“We did a pretest of one class with 12 students in January and while we gave students an opportunity to opt out, pretty much none have done so,” Charles added.

Taneja and Sta. Cruz, along with five student interns make up the survey team. By the end of the semester they will have interviewed more than 1,600 students, said Charles.

“It’s been a very good experience and we’ve been getting positive feedback,” said Taneja. “It was cool to be able to apply what we learned in the classroom and put it to practical use in an area we care about.”

Sta. Cruz, who has been accepted into a doctoral program at UC Merced this fall, agreed. “This experience has cemented my educational and career goals. While I wanted to do research, I’m leaning towards more community-based, participatory research to inform policy.”

“The fun part will be in disseminating the information back to the community,” said Taneja. “This is what I want to focus on.

“Ultimately, we’d like to affect policy change,” Taneja added. “To learn what motivates students to smoke. And perhaps get more resources to help students should they wish to quit smoking.”

Results of the survey will be analyzed during the 2018-19 academic year and disseminated to campus officials with the eventual goal of informing policy for all CSUs.