Transcripts of the audio interviews

Carlos R

My name is Carlos R here at the custodial department. I’ve been here thirty years. I started smoking at the age of sixteen and I quit around the age of forty-five, forty-eight, but it’s been fifteen years since I quit smoking. There are several reasons why I quit. One was my son was always asking me to quit smoking, he didn’t like me smoking. Another one, I quit because of my health, I just started thinking about my health and waking up coughing. I would wake up early in the morning, at two or three o’clock. I’d go outside to have a cigarette. After dinner I’d have a cigarette. It was a habit to where every place I went, every spot I stopped, I had to have a cigarette. But like I said, it’s been fifteen years now and that was the best thing I ever did in my life because I feel a lot better now. And I have friends right now that also smoked when I started and they’re not doing too good health-wise now when it comes to cigarettes so my best advice to anyone is if they can quit, do it, and if they can’t do it on their own, try to get help. It’s the best thing for your health. You live longer, that’s a fact of life.

Joe B

My name is Joe B. My occupation is electrician in the maintenance section of the school. I started smoking when I was thirteen, quit about six times over my lifetime. In 2001, I decided to quit and haven’t smoked since. For me it was just a decision but to quit smoking was actually tough because I had to quit drinking coffee at the same time so I wouldn’t smoke. My body literally went into shock for three days. [Interviewer: “What was the hardest part?”] I was in bed. No, it was withdrawal from two different addictive things. To quit smoking you need three full days. And then I went back to drinking coffee. No chronic cough. I ran long distance for years even while I was smoking but as my body aged it got a little tougher to do the running and smoking at the same time so it was a good deal to quit. It’s a decision. You have to decide that you’re done. And that’s pretty much the first step, not trying to quit but deciding that you’re done. 

Tony L

Hello. My name is Tony L. I work at the Primate Center, I’m an Animal Technician and I’m here to tell the story about how I stopped smoking. It was in December and I had tried various times. Over the years I have stopped off and on. And this time I stopped, like I said since December. I feel a whole lot better. I’m walking a lot so my system’s feeling a lot better. My mind feels a little clearer. I knew that smoking was really bad for you, it kills all your cells. So I was the kind of guy who could quit cold turkey, other people have to wean themselves off of it. I was able to quit cold turkey and hopefully I see myself as not smoking anymore. That’s about it. I feel great and I encourage everybody to do the same. The difficulty was the moment of quitting cause I had said before, Monday I’m going to stop, Monday I’m going to stop. And then one day you just feel that satori, you feel that instant awakening where you just stop, for some reason that inner being just says hey, this is it. So I go the ARC and I run. The only thing is my eating habits aren’t the best so now I gotta work on that. But I think the number one cause of your health concerns is smoking, worse than even anything else. Focus on your health and focus on, instead of quitting, the word quit is kind of negative, say “I want to breathe better,” “I want to feel better.” That’s where their mindset has to be. They have to think that way and then once they keep saying that to themselves I think they’ll be able to quit. For some people it’s different, for some people it’s harder, but anyone can do it. You know, if I can do it, anyone can do it, that’s always the old saying. The best thing about quitting is the health and my taste buds, I can taste food a lot better. I can smooch with my wife without her saying, “hey, these taste like cigarettes!” And just health, overall, the best thing about quitting is I know that making that decision and doing other healthy things, that I’ll live a lot longer.

Elvira D

I don’t smoke because my dad has smoked for most of my life. He’s been quitting for the past 30 years so I’ve never smoked. He has struggled with quitting and he loves and cares about his family a lot and seeing him struggle made me feel like smoking was kind of evil, and something that he couldn’t shake. And him being such a strong person, I just felt like it was something I should never become involved with.

Jason S

When I was eleven my dad died of cancer. It was actually in the stomach but it spread from lung cancer. One of the things I specifically remember from that when I was a kid is he went for surgery and had half his lungs removed and after the surgery he still went out and smoked cigarettes because he was just so addicted to it that he couldn’t stop even though he knew that he was killing himself. When he finally died he was like skin and bones. You basically wouldn’t recognize him with a t-shirt off just because the cancer ate himself from the inside out. I never took up smoking and I have no desire too. I make sure to tell my kids “don’t take it up, it killed my dad, and you’d have a grandfather now if that wasn’t the case.” [Shannon] Have you heard of the smoke and tobacco free UC Davis policy? [Jason] Yeah, actually I don’t know if I like it so much because I go for walks in the arboretum and I notice a lot more people hiding out there to smoke now so I’m actually being exposed to more smoke now.

James S

I was a smoker until a few months ago and then I just started feeling really tired of feeling like a second class citizen or something. It started to piss me off a lot so I just stopped. I couldn’t smoke on campus anymore right after the year changed and I also couldn’t smoke on the patio of my apartment. They started telling me I couldn’t do that even though it faces the street and I get exhaust fumes in my window all day. So I had to stand on the corner and smoke cigarettes. I started feeling really uncomfortable and just didn’t want to do it anymore. I do a lot of sports and it certainly helps to stop. There are plenty of reasons but I think that was what put me over the edge. I had stopped before a couple of years ago and it certainly had nothing to do with any Davis policy decisions because I wasn’t here, so it just was maybe what helped me try again.

I worked at a coffee shop. I was like sixteen, so eleven years ago. Probably all the older people that I hung out with and liked smoked that also worked there smoked and it was probably just the social group I was in. It depends on the day but it’s good. And it’s a struggle, you know, like drinking’s a struggle so sometimes I’ll still have a cigarette at a party, but otherwise I certainly haven’t had a cigarette sober in a few months. I definitely have smoked a lot less. Yeah, it’s good, hopefully I’ll take it down to zero period in the near future. I’ve been smoking since before I started drinking alcohol so my inside tastes beer and I’m like “ok, where’s the cigarette? Coffee was also a struggle but I drink a lot more coffee than alcohol so I got over that faster I think. Certainly if they’re not there, it’s not like I would go to the store and buy some. And I think maybe it does help, if I’m not around people who smoke I’m not going to smoke.

My cardio got a lot better and I just felt like I could work out a little harder and I think I was sleeping a lot better after a couple of weeks, which makes sense right, so you have better blood circulation. I just stopped, so I just finished the pack one night and didn’t buy anymore. I was a little on edge for a couple of weeks. I think that was what I needed to do because the things that I Wanted to get rid of were related to being addicted to nicotine so I didn’t want to use any kind of replacement or anything like that because I just wanted the addiction to go away as fast as possible, which maybe I was being a little too optimistic about. But I think for me anyway nicotine patches or anything like that wouldn’t have helped. It’s like ok, so you’ve been doing this for eleven years, your brain’s really used to it, every habit you have is really used to it. [Interviewer: Do you have any strategies for fighting the cravings?] I do push ups or run up some stairs. Do anything to get yourself breathing heavy, a little endorphin kick. So I went seven or eight weeks without a cigarette and the first month I didn’t drink alcohol at all. And I think that probably helped a lot. And since then any time I’ve had a cigarette, alcohol was involved so I think that was a good strategy, not drinking alcohol was a good strategy. I also think it’s just picking the situations, if you introduce yourself into situations where you always smoke before you’re comfortable being a nonsmoker it’s not going to go well for you unless you have a lot more willpower than I do. And I also think distraction is the most underrated strategy in the world.  So pick up a guitar, or go talk to somebody, eat something, walk around, call somebody, anything that makes you think about something else and it will go away.

[Interviewer: If you want to talk about the policy, what are your thoughts on it?] I guess I have mixed feelings about it. It certainly is not a choice for a lot of people, it certainly was to start but maybe it’s not as much anymore, or it’s more complicated than that to continue, so when you put them in an environment where they can’t smoke, or they’re looked down upon for smoking, or they have to be afraid when they’re trying to find some corner of campus to smoke on, I think it’s messed up and it has a negative psychological impact on people. So I don’t think that’s fair, especially when the campus community was never consulted in any sort of even piecemeal pretend democratic fashion. So I think it’s problematic. On the other hand it’s nice to not have people around that are smoking, though of course anywhere on the campus perimeter I could find them I guess if I wanted to, but yeah it’s less tempting. Certainly the first couple of weeks that I stopped I think it definitely helped to not come out of class and see all the people that I used to have cigarettes with smoking there, so that’s a good thing. There are probably other ways to approach the problem that would have similar positive effects without the same negative consequences but then I guess you couldn’t make the categorical publicity claims that you have a smoke free campus. It’s a problem I guess of how it was done, but the end result for me personally was not that bad.   If I couldn’t stop smoking though, or if I didn’t want to, then I think that would really suck. But it depends, it probably did help me quit a little bit, that people weren’t smoking all over campus, and it helped me interrupt those habits too because you’re not just coming out of class and lighting a cigarette. So there were certainly some positive things but also some negative things. 

Ellen D

I personally distaste smoking and tobacco wholly and completely. I’m totally in favor of [the policy]. It allows me to feel so much more healthy on campus and I don’t have to see it anymore and I don’t have to smell it anymore. I appreciate it so much, it’s so much nicer. I think I heard of a few people that were a little annoyed  but many more people that were so happy about it. Overall I think [smoking] is such an unhealthy habit and I am so glad that so many people are taking so many different measures to eradicate it from our society.

Robin L

I grew up in Minnesota and I started smoking between the ages of 11 and 12 because we have a huge German population, my family’s all German on my mother’s side, and everyone smoked. So I grew up watching everybody smoke and you want to be like the adults so you start lighting up at a younger and younger age. When I found out that I was pregnant with my oldest son I quit immediately. That was twenty-two years ago. I did start up again when he was about two or three because I sang and played in bands and hanging out in the band scene, you know, alcohol and cigarettes, they go together unfortunately, and then I decided that I was going to quit permanently, which I’ve done. It was about fifteen years ago that I really quit, before I got married and had my youngest.

You have to get out of the habit. You have to stop associating with people [from the habit]. Like I said it’s just a habit. It’s just a timing thing. You wake up in the morning, you have breakfast. Some people smoke when they get up, not me.  So if I just changed my habits and my timing of things it made it so much easier. You have to get out of that rut. You do different things, like grab a glass of water, or a piece of fruit, something, instead of a cigarette. If you want to be around and enjoy life rather than just existing in pain, which is what happens if you keep smoking, you have to stop and look at are you really smoking the cigarette or is the cigarette smoking you, because you realize you start planning everything in your life around it. So take a look at your habits, take a look at what you’re doing, and see if you really enjoy smoking or if it’s just something you do because it’s what you do.

Don’t start, it’s really not worth it and there are so many other things out there that are better. Most of the time kids pick it up because they’re bored. I think it’s up to a lot of the parents to talk to their kids about it and find something else to do, and find out what their friends are up to, because it’s always your friends who get you started. In fact I got my cousin started, shame on me. Just don’t start, realize it’s not worth it and there are other things in life. If you want to be addicted to something pick exercise, or something else that’s healthy.

Shannon F

When I was young my grandfather and one of my uncles used to smoke pretty heavily. I remember as a young child them stepping out of the house and needing to take a smoke once in awhile during family gatherings. My sister actually has asthma which can be triggered by smoke in the air so I remember her having little asthma attacks in the house or whenever we were around them. I personally don’t like smoking. I know the health impacts that it gives you, and also the environmental. Just overall my experience hasn’t been very good so I just have a very ill feeling toward smoking and tobacco in general. I actually didn’t really know that much about tobacco until recently so it was interesting to learn about it and to see how it affects social justice and the environment and health. 

Elvira D

I don’t smoke because my dad has smoked for most of my life. He’s been quitting for the past 30 years so I have never smoked. He has struggled with quitting and he loves and cares about his family a lot and seeing him struggle made me feel like smoking was kind of evil, and something that he couldn’t shake, and him being such a strong person, I just felt like it was something I should never become involved with.

Dawn C

I never started smoking and the reason I never started smoking is because when I was a teenager I saw a chart that showed if you smoked one pack a day it cost you a hundred dollars. This was awhile back so it was a lot less expensive then, I think it was thirty-five cents a pack. And I said I don’t have a hundred dollars and if I did have a hundred dollars I would like to spend it on something else. So I never started smoking because of that reason. In 1999 when the taxes on cigarettes went up my husband stopped smoking after 45 years because he couldn’t afford it anymore. We’re a smoke-free family now because it’s just too expensive. It’s an absolute waste of time and life and money and effort and there is nothing beneficial about tobacco.

George H

The best thing I ever did was learn how to tap dance. It has given me more openings in meeting people of all sorts and sharing a lifestyle where I came from 185 pounds drinking and smoking and eating wrong and not exercising and I switched that around to quitting smoking in one day and started running, well, wobbling really. And then finally I got to where I could run and I started running competitively five and ten k’s [races] and a little bit longer and finally one day I got talked into running my first twenty-six mile marathon which I did in four hours and thirteen minutes. I did another one shortly after that in four hours and three minutes. And then when I qualified for Boston, [I finished in] three hours and fifty-nine minutes.  

I’m known in Modesto as the Billy Graham of fitness because if I can get two or three people to stand still for a moment I will preach good healthy living. I know a lot of people don’t like it but how you treat your body when you’re young is how your body will treat you when you get older. To paraphrase John Kennedy, ask not what your body can do for you, but what you can do for your body. Stay healthy, don’t smoke, eat better and exercise.


I have people around me who smoke on a regular basis, such as siblings. They have considered quitting, so ways that I help them is educating them, primarily through showing them statistics of the health issues that they can gain over time, the numbers of people who have passed on due to smoking, and educating them on other methods that are not as harmful to help them wean out of smoking because it’s a really hard habit to get out of, and so helping them understand that you don’t have to go cold turkey and stop. You can easily slow down, maybe do five a week and then start with three a week, just slowly decrease. Not just because I want them to [quit] but for themselves. Definitely keep it going!

Stefanie S

My grandfather used to smoke, for as long as I can remember. I think he started in his teenage years or his early twenties. Growing up I just remember him always smelling like smoke. Whenever we had family gatherings he always stepped out to have essentially a cigarette break. I also know that he was a pretty heavy drinker and I think that combination was extremely lethal.  I am not very close to him but I know that in his later years his health definitely started to deteriorate. He actually came down with pneumonia and he had to be hospitalized. We weren’t sure if he was going to make it. Fortunately he did but over the years I saw his energy decrease. He wasn’t as active as he used to be and I think that definitely has to do with the fact that he smoke and drank consistently. I think today unfortunately he hasn’t really even considered quitting. I feel really sad about that because I know about the health impacts of smoking but there are also a lot of environmental and social impacts that maybe aren’t as well known. I think if society knew more about how negative tobacco is we’d definitely have a different culture.

James D

I started smoking when I was fifteen years old. When I turned thirty my brother-in-law suggested quitting. I had been wanting to quit even since then because none of my family members smoked and I was always getting in trouble for smoking. It took a lot of tries and I think that’s the key, as long as you have the will to keep trying. Then you do like one day at a time, then it’s one week, then it’s one month. So it took different times but finally I just went cold turkey. The feeling that my health [was back], my body’s experience was tremendous. Once I knew that I could do it. It’s thirty years later now and I’m smoke free!

I tell that to everybody I meet that smokes and wants to quit, I tell them that’s the way to do it. Just as long as you have that will to stop. You might not stop the first time, you just have to keep at it.

Alicia W

My dad smoked when he and my mom first got together and my mom gave him an ultimatum that she wouldn’t marry him and have babies with him unless he quit. So he did and growing up that’s all I heard, that I should never marry a smoker, and from my dad, that I should never start smoking. He was in the Navy so that’s what you did if you wanted a break from work. You had to smoke or else they’d just keep working you.

[Interviewer: “Do you know about the UC Davis policy towards smoking?”] Yes. [Interviewer: How do you feel about it?”] I think it’s really great because I think stress can trigger people to want to smoke and work can be stressful so to have the whole campus behind you supporting you quitting and giving you the tools you need is really wonderful.

Jasmin Z

When I was a baby my dad smoked a lot and when I was born I had jaundice, which wasn’t a direct cause but it scared him enough that…I think it was pretty amazing that he pretty much quit cold turkey because he was terrified that something was going to happen to me and my sisters. I was like five weeks old? It took him awhile and according to my mom it took him a couple of tries but just the fact that he saw that it was such a big health effect for me and was willing to do that, I think was pretty amazing. As a way to get over it he would collect those little things on the Marlboro tops and send them in to get products. That was one thing I remembered when growing up, we had a ton of jackets and sleeping bags and little cups and everything [from Marlboro] because that was his way of dealing with it, like I can’t have it, but I can get the little tabs from my friends.

My mom would let him back in the house, so that was nice, because before he could only [smoke] outside, my mom hated the smell. It’s one of those things I don’t see why you would start given all the negative things about it. I understand when you’re addicted it’s hard to stop but I just don’t understand starting [smoking]. 

Amory M

I originally come from New York City and that’s a place where over the past few years the former mayor Mike Bloomberg had made a lot of initiatives to keep smoking out of public areas, whether inside restaurants or bars, and really expanded that. That was something that growing up was a constant presence and it made a huge impact on me, the change in air quality and just the ability to breathe freely as you walked through the streets and not have that change in environment. So who when I heard that they were setting up a UC wide policy and that they needed help for a committee here I was pretty excited by that. I supported the idea and I offered my name.

It’s actually changed a fair amount over the past couple of years and largely my role has been to provide student input, another voice as to how students might respond and what’s important to students. So in that sense it’s been interesting. Now we’ve moved on to continued maintenance, upkeep, monitoring, seeing how things are working, and seeing what needs to be done for education and outreach. It’s been a fun couple of years actually. Changing roles and doing different things but it’s been nice to be there providing some information and insights into how things may or may not affect students.

The policy’s been known theoretically to students for years and like everything everybody ignored it until the last few months. It’s been, at least in my experience, I know there’s been some things here and there, but all in all pretty seamless. The level of smoking was never hugely high, which is nice, but right at January first I noticed a difference, it dropped precipitously, at least publicly and where people were seeing things. I know acceptance of [the policy] was very high to begin with but we’re moving towards even more acceptance. I think one thing that’s interesting to think about is that all the incoming students have been informed of the UC wide policy, and UC Davis’ policy, so it’s not going to be weird for them. No undergraduates and very few graduate students even will have known anything else at UC Davis. I think that’s a very interesting thing to think about.

We’re definitely in a transitionary period but you can very much see the results. It’s still very much teach people, educate people, provide resources for people who want to quit, and people who don’t, that’s fine, they just can’t do it on campus. It really in the end comes down to, it’s sort of trite to say it, but that phrase, your freedoms end where mine begin and the idea that people should have the ability to, as we say, breathe freely and have a smoke free air environment. There’s something admirable in having that ability for anybody on campus. It’s about air quality, the ability to breathe and the ability to have the air quality that you would expect to have in a place that is open to the environment and I think getting that is admirable.

Teri S

I’ve never been a smoker myself but my first husband smoked for many many years and as a result my kids ended up smoking when they became adults. It made me want to convince them not to smoke and I’m really proud because both of my sons and their wives, so all four of them, have now all quit smoking. I know some people probably see smoking as a right but I think you have to think about what you’re doing and how it affects the people around you. And I, as a non-smoker, and even if I was a smoker, I’d prefer to be around people who aren’t smoking. I want to have a choice too. You know what’s sad about it, when kids start smoking because they think it’s cool. In my conversations with my own kids who are now adults, they stopped smoking and then they started smoking again. And they’d say, well it was stress, stress made me smoke. And so I’d say, tell me one good thing about smoking. And they can’t.  [Interviewer: do you think the media has affected them with the idea that smoking is cool?] For a long time now, in social media and the media in general you barely see people smoking in the movies, so I am kind of surprised to see that kids are still smoking and that there is still a coolness attached to it. 

Liz S

I guess I’ve been a victim of second-hand smoking since I was two. I’ve had four family members in my house smoke. I have asthma sometimes and in our household the walls have turned different colors and the cushions are filled with ashes. My dad had to recently quit smoking because he had to get spinal surgery; there was a lot of pressure building up [in his spine].  As a result of smoking he had to get surgery. I feel that it is good to remove it from people who don’t want to be involved with smoking. I do occasionally see people trying to hide in the trees though but I guess it’s just stress, the environment around them, and if they have family members or if the people around them smoke as well.

Allen D

I haven’t smoked since the second grade. Both my parents died of lung disease so that impacted me a fair bit. I was an adult when they died. My dad was a heavy smoker for much of his life and quit late in his life but he still got lung cancer and my mother died of emphysema, which is actually a slow suffocation and it takes years. It was quite painful and hard. She didn’t inhale, she always maintained, so she created her own secondhand smoke. Both my parents died from tobacco.

My thought about tobacco is that if it was a person, I would have a vendetta out for them but I’m surprisingly not too bitter about it. I’m really glad that tobacco is waning in the United States and I really enjoy going into restaurants and bars where there is no tobacco. I can’t imagine going into places where my eyes used to burn. My father was a dean at a university and he probably would have had to comply with [the policy] and he probably would have lived to see his granddaughter if that policy was in place. It’s a challenging policy because from a policy maker’s point of view, it’s a legal activity, but I think it’s a strong stand for health. Some people feel it’s kind of cool and some of my daughters have dabbled with it now and then. I think more people understand that it really is dangerous and unhealthy and some people are rebellious against that. We already have public service announcements against tobacco. It would be great to see some of the late night comedians mocking tobacco and really adopting that and making it less and less cool.

The smell of my father’s car, it always had a really rank, acrid smell, and I think it was because of the tobacco smoke that was stuck to all of the glass and all of the vinyl. It just had this really acrid smell. I remember when it was legal in bars, my eyes would burn. My father smoked cigars and it used to give me headaches as a child so I have pretty unpleasant memories. I also remember as a child stealing his cigarettes and putting them under water to make him hopefully stop smoking. It was pretty stressful as a kid, especially because my dad had heart attacks. This was way back in the ‘60s before it was thought of as a policy thing, but I just wanted him to quit. I think it eventually paid off but he didn’t pay much attention to me. It’s an ironic addiction that people are hung up on and I understand that it’s really hard to quit, I’m glad I never got addicted, just the evidence is so clear. I get really angry at the corporations, that they keep promoting it. I think the leadership is really hard hearted to keep selling it and killing millions of people. I have little mercy for the corporations; I guess my vendetta should be out against them.

Lelia J

I don’t like the smell of it. I don’t like to kiss anyone who’s smoked before. I used to be a firefighter here when I was a student and we couldn’t smoke, because you don’t want to start more fires, so a lot of people would chew and it was so disgusting because they’d have it in their lip and then they’d have these containers that they’d spit in. Everything about it was just gross to me. I think when it’s pure tobacco and there’s a ritual around it perhaps, like in Native American culture, there’s a ritual of it and it’s a pure tobacco that they grew and they’re passing around a peace pipe, I think there’s something to be said about that, around cultural traditions, and I think there’s a validation in that. What disgusting are the cigarettes that are packed with other things besides the pure tobacco. It’s a completely different product, it’s not tobacco, it’s something completely different. I’ve smoked maybe twice in my life and it was more just out of curiosity to c=try a cigarette and I was sitting with a friend that was really upset so I was like okay, sure I’ll have a cigarette. The physical movement of [smoking] I really liked but ugh, the taste and the smell afterward, it wouldn’t leave my mouth afterward. But yeah, there’s a relaxing motion to it.