CSUS looks at smoking ban

Once part of college culture generations ago, smoking will soon be prohibited at UC Davis and may likewise vanish at Sacramento State.

UC Davis officials announced in June that tobacco use will be banned starting Jan. 1 on all university property, including UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, as part of a University of California systemwide policy.

While students and administrators at California State University, Sacramento, have discussed a similar ban for years, a fall course in public relations campaigns may serve as the impetus for a similar prohibition there.

One campuswide ban being considered by CSUS President Alexander Gonzalez would prohibit all smoking, tobacco chewing and use of electronic cigarettes on school property except within a personal vehicle as soon as 2015. Smoking is now allowed on campus as long as it isn’t within 20 feet from buildings, in Hornet Stadium or on major walkways.

On the heels of a campus task force’s recommendation that CSUS ban tobacco use, 71 students in professor Timothy Howard’s class decided to take on the issue as their semester project five weeks ago. They adopted the name “Hornets for a Healthy Hive” and launched a campaign that included surveys, town hall meetings, conversations with Gonzalez and a social-media presence.

The student group says the tobacco ban will protect student health and the beauty of the campus. Secondhand smoke causes heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults and a number of health conditions, including sudden infant death syndrome and respiratory infections, in children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Campaign director Walter Michael hopes Gonzalez will approve the ban and that it will go into effect Jan. 1, 2015.

Gonzalez and his staff are examining the task force’s recommendations, said Craig Koscho, a CSUS spokesman. The president is working with students from Hornets for a Healthy Hive to determine how the university may incorporate their proposal.

Not so quick, said Alex Henthorn, who formed Hornets For A Free & Safe Campus to oppose the ban.

“We are supposed to be a community that works together, and we are ostracizing students that are making legal decisions as adults,” he said.

Henthorn’s organization – consisting of five members of the Sacramento State College Republicans – plans to meet with Gonzalez on Monday to pitch a counterproposal that would create designated smoking areas away from buildings and major walkways. Henthorn says the group has identified multiple sites for the smoking areas. He argues that the proposed tobacco ban would force students to go to unsafe areas like off-campus bike trails or their cars in parking lots to smoke.

The Hornets for a Healthy Hive campaign came on the heels of a recommendation by the Campus Policy Tobacco Task Force to ban all tobacco use at Sacramento State. The task force was composed of faculty, students and staff and convened at Gonzalez’s request.

A majority of the school’s students are in favor of a tobacco ban, according to a survey by Associated Students Inc. – the school’s student government – last spring. Seventy-one percent of the 3,420 respondents said they were in favor of banning tobacco on campus, according to the task force’s report. The Hornets for a Healthy Hive proposal also has the approval of Associated Students Inc., which recently passed a resolution of support.

A survey conducted in 2011 by the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services found that 14 percent of CSUS students smoked, according to the task force report.

Henthorn points to the low number as evidence that new restrictions aren’t needed. Proponents of the ban say the data show a small number of smokers are impacting the vast majority who must endure secondhand smoke.

California State University, Fullerton, became the first CSU to ban smoking on its campus in August, but the policy allows use of chewing tobacco. Although the California State University system does not have a systemwide prohibition on smoking, CSU officials said all the campuses are individually moving in that direction.

The UC Davis ban includes cigarettes, chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes.

UC Davis students are working to promote the upcoming tobacco ban on their campus. On Nov. 21, about 50 students from campus clubs converged on the quad at the Davis campus in a “flash-mob-type event” to bring attention to the new policy, said UCD spokeswoman Julia Ann Easley. She said the students, wearing “Breathe Free” T-shirts, held up signs with information about the new policy and the dangers of smoking.

The UC Davis policy is relying on “education and encouragement” to enforce its policy, Easley said. Students who are found smoking will be offered information about the policy and resources to help them stop smoking. They also have access to cessation counseling and can receive a free month’s supply of nicotine replacement therapy.

Employees have access to smoking cessation counseling and a support group. “After the phase-in period, additional reinforcement measures may be considered,” Easley said.

At Sacramento State, smokers were hard to find Wednesday. Senior Julie Martinez said she isn’t happy about the possibility of a tobacco ban. “I pay a fortune for tuition,” Martinez said. “There are nothing but adults here. … It’s not the school’s job to tell me to stop smoking.”

Martinez said that some of the areas on campus where smokers congregated in the past now have “No Smoking” signs. “I’m glad I’m graduating,” she said.

The future teacher, who hopes to attend graduate school at UC Davis, wasn’t happy to learn about the pending tobacco ban at that campus. “It will make it a lot harder” to get through the day, she said.

Tyler Virden sat on a bench holding a cigarette low to the ground during a break from her job at the University Union on Wednesday. The graduate student knows most people don’t like cigarettes and agrees smoking shouldn’t be allowed on the main paths. Virden isn’t too concerned about a smoking ban, although “it would be more fair” to have designated smoking areas. “I’m fine with that,” she said of the ban. “I’ve been around places where you can’t smoke.”

Hornets for a Healthy Hive hasn’t completed a policy on enforcement of the ban, but will likely propose that first-time offenders be warned and multiple offenders cited, said Luis Kischmischian, a spokesman for the student effort. The task force’s report says students and staff can get help in quitting smoking. If Gonzalez approves the smoking ban, next semester’s public relations class will create a campaign to educate others about the new rules, Kischmischian said.

“This is an informational campaign,” Michael said. “We don’t want to fine people. We want to create a culture where they don’t use tobacco products on campus.”