Proposed Law Banning Smoking on Campus Gains Steam

A City College student uses an electronic cigarette after class. A new law would ban smoking on campus, including e-cigs. (2014 file photo by Elisa Parrino/The Guardsman)
A City College student uses an electronic cigarette after class. A new law would ban smoking on campus, including e-cigs. (2014 file photo by Elisa Parrino/The Guardsman)

By Andy Bays

The California State Assembly passed bill (AB 1594) April 25 that, if ratified, will prohibit all use of tobacco products on California community college and state university campuses by January 2018.

The next stop for the bill, authored by Assemblymembers Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) and Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), is the senate. Then it’s off to the governor’s desk for signing.

“We need to promote a safe and healthy environment for the campus staff, students and faculty,” McCarty said. “This bill helps address the harmful health effects that come with smoking and secondhand smoke on our college campuses.”

In addition to conventional cigarettes, the bill includes a ban on vapes, chewing tobacco and dip.

Currently, each college campus decides for themselves what their smoking policy is. If this bill passes, it will create a uniform smoking ban on all colleges in California, including designated smoking areas.

City College’s Ocean campus has 10 designated smoking areas. “Willful or persistent smoking in any area where smoking is prohibited,” as the violation is described in Student Code of Conduct, is grounds for punishment. Punishments range from warnings and reprimands, to retribution, disciplinary probation and removal.

Director of Student Health Services Becky Perelli is optimistic about having less cigarette smoke on campus.“We’re working to become 100-percent tobacco free. We’ve assessed through surveys that that’s what students and faculty want, and that’s where we’re hopefully headed. ”

Perelli added that there are a host of resources available through Student Health Services to help nicotine addicts kick their habit. Some of the most effective ones are group therapy, nicotine gum and cold-turkey quitting.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 percent of adults in the U.S. smoked cigarettes in 2014. Additionally, smoking is tied to one-in-five deaths, making it the leading preventable death in the U.S.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill on May 4 that will raise the California smoking age from 18 to 21, and he vetoed a bill that would allow counties to vote on how much to tax cigarettes.

“We realize it is an addiction and needs to be treated,” Perelli said. “As far as e-cigarettes go, there hasn’t been enough research on them, so they shouldn’t be thought of as ‘safe.’”

Some students find the ban unnerving. Melissa Quijada, sophomore in nursing, thinks the college should keep the designated smoking areas. “I don’t smoke, but a lot of people do, so we should just keep the smoking areas as they are.”

Melbin Martinez, an ESL student since 2014, enjoyed a smoke before class at Mission Center. “I think it’s a bad idea,” he said. “Not good.”

Antoinette Cole, also a sophomore in nursing, had a somewhat nuanced view. “I will support the ban when I quit,” she said as she inhaled from a cigarette. “However, I still smoke. So, right now, I’m against it.”

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