PARAMUS, N.J. — With the dangers of vaping a hot topic in current headlines as the death toll from the harmful activity  — which is linked to lung disease — continues to climb among young people, one Paramus college is joining in the national movement to encourage smoking cessation.

In recognition of the American Cancer Society’s national “Great American Smokeout” held on November 21, more than 75 students, faculty, staff and community members at Bergen Community College have pledged their support of a smoke-, tobacco-, and vape-free campus.

“The Great American Smokeout helped to raise awareness regarding the vaping epidemic and associated lung-related injury,” said Ian Wolf, coordinator of Student Conduct and Student Information at the college, in a news release. “We view the Great American Smokeout event as a launch point for making a cultural shift on campus for a healthier and safer community.”

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The Great American Smokeout, sponsored by The American Cancer Society, challenges smokers to relinquish cigarettes for a day. The smokeout coincided with the diligent efforts of BCC’s Breathe Clear Campus Taskforce, members of which are working to establish a healthy college community by altering college policy to include e-cigarettes as part of its Breathe Clear Initiative and vaping education. 

The same year e-cigarettes were introduced into the United States in 2007, BCC banned smoking on campus. Since then, however, e-cigarette usage has become increasingly popular among young people. 

In the last year, vaping has gained notoriety in the news as a public health crisis, with a high prevalence of teens and young adults having engaged in the harmful activity and a number of them dying from vaping-related lung disease.  

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control, the prevalence of frequent daily use of e-cigarette products containing nicotine and THC was higher among men in persons ages 18-34. 

During the Smokeout event, BCC partnered with physicians at Bergen New Bridge Medical Center physicians to discuss the dangers and health risks of vaping in addition to dental hygiene and respiratory care. More than 60 individuals took advantage of free oral cancer screenings and over 25 received pulmonary function tests, which were administered by students enrolled in the dental hygiene and respiratory care programs. In addition, student government association leaders sponsored a “Cold Turkey Networking” luncheon during which student smokers trying to kick the habit were given turkey sandwiches to eat.  

Earlier this year, the college circulated a survey asking students their opinion about banning e-cigarettes at Bergen campuses, and the majority were in agreement.    

Around that time, BCC was awarded $15,600 in grants from the CVS Health Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the New Jersey Prevention Network to use towards creating campaigns targeting the abolishment of smoking and tobacco use both on and off campus. 

The college aims to become smoke- and tobacco-free by June 2020.   

For more information on Bergen's Breathe Clear Initiative, go to bergen.edu/breatheclearcampus.