Education

American River College to join ranks of nonsmoking campuses

American River College on Jan. 1 will become the first school in the Los Rios Community College District to prohibit smoking anywhere on campus.
American River College on Jan. 1 will become the first school in the Los Rios Community College District to prohibit smoking anywhere on campus. Associated Press file

American River College will join the ranks of colleges that prohibit smoking anywhere on campus, making it the first school in the Los Rios Community College District to impose such a ban, officials announced Thursday.

ARC will prohibit smoking, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes and similar products throughout the campus starting Jan. 1. The ban extends to outdoor spaces, parking lots, parking structures and vehicles, ARC officials said. It also applies to ARC’s off-campus Natomas and McClellan centers.

All four Los Rios campuses have stricter requirements than state law, which prohibits smoking outdoors within 20 feet of classrooms or other buildings. Sacramento City College, Cosumnes River College and Folsom Lake College only allow smoking in designated areas, while American River College extends the state ban to 30 feet.

On Wednesday, Los Rios board members are set to decide whether to add e-cigarettes and similar devices to the systemwide ban and to allow each campus to implement its own rules.

ARC President Thomas Greene said interest in a campus ban predated his arrival in August. The design of the campus, with many classroom doors open to outdoor hallways, made secondhand smoke a problem for many people, he said, “depending on which way the wind blows.”

76% Share of American River College students supportive of a smoke-free campus

“I had received some concerns from faculty and staff about how we were regulating the use of tobacco,” Greene said. “It was disrupting the learning environment.”

Greene said he made the final policy decision after lengthy conversations within the college, research, consultation with his executive staff and a campus survey in March. That survey showed 76 percent of students and 83 percent of employees would support a smoke-free campus.

Other campuses in the region, including Sierra College in Rocklin and the University of California, Davis, already have tobacco bans. California State University, Sacramento, will begin a campaign Aug. 1 to educate students and others about a pending ban on tobacco use, said Luis Kischmischian, spokesman for CSUS student affairs.

That effort began in late 2013, when CSUS President Alexander Gonzalez asked that a policy be developed that would ban tobacco use on campus beginning in fall 2015. Kischmischian said on Thursday the CSU Chancellor’s Office put Sacramento State’s ban on hold to coordinate action with the system’s 22 other campuses.

The American Lung Association estimates about 460 colleges and universities nationally are 100 percent tobacco-free.

ARC’s 2016 effective date will give campus leaders time to establish enforcement policies and explore how to provide help to smokers.

Editor’s note (June 5): This post has been updated to clarify existing smoking policies at Los Rios campuses.

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