Stephen Manga / Daily Nexus

Stephen Manga / Daily Nexus

The University of California launched the UC Smoke and Tobacco-Free Student Fellowship on Monday to fund research projects that focus on reducing the effect of tobacco products on UC campuses.

California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law Tuesday that raises the smoking age in California to 21. Building upon the new legislation and the campus-wide Smoke Free and Tobacco Free Policy of 2014, the UC system is looking to combat tobacco on campuses.

Following an application process, the UC will select four students, undergraduate or graduate, to receive $12,000 fellowships to fund their research projects regarding the reduction of health effects from campus tobacco use. These students will have one year to complete and present their research and, from there, evaluators will decide if the projects are feasible enough to implement on campus.

According to Michael Takahara, chair of the UCSB Smoke and Tobacco-Free Steering Committee, the fellowship program was approved by UC President Napolitano at a meeting in February.

“All of the UC campuses met with President Napolitano on Feb. 1 of this year,” Takahara said. “This was one of the recommendations and she approved it, so we’re very grateful to the Office of the President for doing that.”

Associate Director of the UCSB Smoke and Tobacco-Free Steering Committee Jon Cook said he supports the fellowship program because it will educate students on the negative effects tobacco products have on the campus environment.

“I will support the program as it works to educate smokers about the impacts of smoking on the campus,” Cook said in an email. “Grounds staff, as well as our PathPoint litter crew spend many hours collecting cigarette butts on campus. We have also had several garbage can fires from cigarettes being discarded improperly.”

Shanni Tal, undergraduate representative of the steering committee and fourth-year psychology major, said the inclusion of student ideas through the fellowship program will help promote a smoke and tobacco-free campus.

“We definitely can benefit greatly from more student-lead initiatives,” Tal said in an email. “I think this program will allow students to gain experience in the field of public health and can continue to promote a more holistically healthy environment for our community.”

“Students are a great voice because students actually see what’s going on,” Takahara said. “It’s great when you have somebody who’s close to this issue being able to address it, because of that proximity … and matching that with a passionate faculty member is just something that’s wonderful.”

The research possibilities are diverse, Takahara said, and allow for students and faculty members to collaborate on topics they are passionate about while simultaneously benefiting the campus environment.

“They could have a project that looks at ‘what is the impact of tobacco on our environment and how can we reduce that?’ Or, they could look at ‘How can we design something that’s feasible to be more effective in our enforcement [of the smoke-free policy]’,” Takahara said.

“Depending on where the student’s interest is, and their faculty member who’s supporting them, they can almost address any of these issues that they’re really passionate about and, hopefully, make a difference that will not only affect our campus, but other campuses as well.”

Applications for the fellowships are now open, and can be accessed here.

A version of this story appeared on p. 4 of the Thursday, May 5, 2016 print edition of the Daily Nexus.