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February 11, 2013

New smoking ban looms over SDSU

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Written by: Hutton Marshall

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02_12_13_News_Smoking_MLWithin the next two monthly meetings, the San Diego State University Senate will vote whether to implement a plan that will make SDSU’s campus completely smoke-free. This new initiative is the result of a resolution passed last month by the Academic Senate of the California State University titled, “A Smoke-Free California State University.”

In this resolution, the CSU senate recommended each CSU campus create a plan to become smoke-free, for the plan to be implemented gradually throughout the next two years and for Chancellor Charles B. Reed to ensure this goal is successful.

While this ASCSU resolution doesn’t make it mandatory for SDSU to become a smoke-free campus, CSU Media Relations Specialist Erik Fallis said the ASCSU resolution certainly carries weight. The ASCSU resolution also increases the likelihood of the CSU Board of Trustees weighing in on the debate in the upcoming months. While the ASCSU resolutions are advisory, the Board of Trustees has the power to make mandatory policy changes throughout the CSU.

“The (ASCSU) is a valuable source of recommendation, and they bring up issues to the Board of Trustees on a regular basis,” Fallis said. “So, I can tell you that an (ASCSU) resolution is given serious consideration, but whether or not that directly changes our policy, that would be hard at that point to anticipate.”

The University Senate vote will occur at either its March or April meeting. University Senate Chair Bill Eadie said the Associated Students University Affairs Board requested it be pushed back to April, so that A.S. would have ample time to gauge student interest regarding the possibility of a smoke-free campus. A.S. Vice President of University Affairs Matt Cecil said a survey will be put online to get a general idea of student opinion on the matter. Cecil also said that aside from the smoking zone behind the theater building, which has received complaints for affecting nearby students, the designated zones policy has been effective.

“There may be a need to move one of the smoking zones … and that’s because it’s so close to the core of campus where we have just a large population of students, and the smoke can actually leak into the theater building right there,” Cecil said. “So that’s one of the issues that’s going to be addressed by the university affairs board, but overall I personally believe that the smoking zones on campus work very well.”

In August 2011, SDSU implemented the “designated zones” policy, which effectively banned smoking from campus except for the 12 designated smoking zones. A.S. President Rob O’Keefe said the smoking issue on campus has become largely politicized, and that the designated zones policy is an effective response to the issue.

“I think (banning smoking completely is) doing a lot more work than needs to be done; I think we’ve monitored it pretty well,” O’Keefe said.  “It’s become pretty political. It’s a train now; people are either getting on it, or getting out of the way.”

However, there are those who feel the designated smoking areas are less than ideal. Environment and Safety Committee Chair Jenny Quintana said the designated smoking zones are not only ineffective, they’re more costly as well.

“There are janitorial costs associated with clean-up,” Quintana said. “There’s signage, which is a cost. Urns, benches and shades have still not been put into all of these places, which is part of the plan. And the cigarette butts are also an environmental pollutant.”

Quintana also said she’s received multiple complaints about the two central smoking areas on campus—the ones near Scripps Cottage and behind the Music building—because the cigarette smoke is still affecting passersby.

“(Those complaining) feel that the location was not appropriate,” Quintana said. “People that go down that walkway feel impacted; people who work in that building. They say that the air intake is compromised, even though the entrance to the building is more than 50 feet way.”

This new push by the ASCSU comes after the University of California system announced last year that it would ban the use of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and unregulated nicotine products, meaning “e-cigarettes,” from all 10 of its campuses. ASCSU Chair Diana Wright Guerin said she hopes the CSU resolves smoking on campus in a similar manner.

“The ASCSU had reports that a ‘Catch 22’ was happening on some campuses, where the campus president would not move until the system did, and the system leadership said it was a campus decision,” Wright said in an email. “After we saw UC President (Mark) Yudof take action across all the UC institutions, we decided to try the system-wide approach in the CSU.”

Eadie said if SDSU were to create a smoke-free campus, no additional funding would go to police enforcement of the new policy. Quintana said the only cost associated with a smoke-free campus would be signage and outreach.

“The policy would … have to be self-enforcing or peer-enforcing, because there would be no reassignment of police time for enforcement of such a ban,” Eadie said.

If the University Senate passes a resolution, certain steps must be taken before the policy will be set in stone. SDSU President Elliot Hirshman has the final authority on all policy matters, although Eadie said SDSU presidents, historically, have “taken pride in agreeing with the senate on virtually all matters.”

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