ASUCI Enforces New State Smoking Policy
In hopes of overseeing the enforcement of AB 846, a state law that prohibits smoking within 20 feet of the main exit, entrance or operable window of a state-owned building, ASUCI is beginning to enforce and promote the new policy in an effort to respect both the rights of smokers and according to ASUCI officials, the rights of non-smokers at UCI as well.
The new policy, which has been in effect since Jan. 1, extended the smoking distance from the previous mandatory distance of 15 feet.
According to ASUCI, it is their desire, as well as the desire of other student and staff members to strictly implement AB 846, in an effort to protect students and staff from the effects of second-hand smoke. At the same time, ASUCI wanted to ensure that the rights of smokers are not abused in the process.
‘[AB 846] is still allowing smokers to smoke, but it’s pushing them away from public buildings and entrances,’ said Emil Kuruvilla, a second-year international studies major and ASUCI social science representative. ‘No rights are being taken away, but rather, a set area where a smoker can smoke is being implemented, while allowing other individuals to pass without receiving the negative effects.’
Kuruvilla, director of environmental health and safety Marc Gomez and director of peer education and tobacco Rita Whiteley, have led the effort and have set goals to enforce the new policy.
‘I have three goals that I want to accomplish by the end of this year,’ Kuruvilla said. ‘First, I want smoking urns to be placed 20 feet from buildings. Second, I want more education about second-hand smoke and about AB 846. I doubt a majority of students know that this policy exists, and that they have the right to tell smokers to stay 20 feet away when they are eating lunch, studying, et cetera. Lastly, certain areas on campus need to have signage concerning banning smoking from the UCI campus.’
On-campus housing communities are also considered public property and will have to adopt the new policy as well.
‘I have no reason to question whether student housing would comply with the law,’ said Robert Ameele, executive director of undergraduate housing. ‘We are an agency of the University of California and state employees. Student housing is state-owned and exists due to the authority of the state and the University of California.’
Plans to implement the policy, such as moving smoking urns, is already underway.
‘The urns haven’t been moved yet, but ASUCI will be working with facilities management to strategically place urns so that smokers will stay away from buildings, and so that there will be less butts on the ground,’ Kuruvilla said.
Steps have also been taken to inform the student body about AB 846. It is believed that if students know about the policy, they will enforce it themselves.
However, Ameele added, ‘In theory, all faculty and staff are responsible for complying with and upholding state law. In practice, in residence, para-professional student staff and residence life staff will ensure that the law is enforced.’
The consequences for not complying with the new smoking policy in on-campus housing areas have already taken effect.
‘Responses for this type of law and policy generally start at a low level of verbally requesting compliance after notifying residents of a policy change,’ Ameele said. ‘We sent each undergraduate resident via a listserv notification of the change to 20 feet. If verbal requests are not sufficient, we would generally escalate the response to a written warning, probation and ultimately, if the resident does not comply, they could be faced with cancellation of their housing contract.’
In regards to other departments and facilities, Gomez said that, ‘It is the responsibility of vice chancellors, deans, directors and department heads to assure compliance with the policy. These individuals will decide the consequences for breaking the policy.’
Kuruvilla explained that it has taken ASUCI almost two months to begin the enforcement of AB 846 because they needed support from the administration.
‘ASUCI has been working on the enforcement of this policy since last November, but it took time to start a networking process. We could not rush into the issue without support to back us up.’
ASUCI decided to take part in enforcing this policy because of the proven dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has published a number of studies on the negative effects of second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke contains over 4,000 substances, 40 of which are known to cause cancer in humans and animals.
According to the EPA second-hand smoke also results in between 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations of infants under 18 months because of lower respiratory tract infections due to the smoke. Furthermore, the smoke given off by cigarettes, pipes and cigars is known to cause eye, throat, nose and lung irritation, which leads to coughing, an excess amount of phlegm and discomfort within the chest. It can also lead to chest pain due to its effects on the cardiovascular system.
Student opinion has been mixed on the new smoking policy.
Laurie Andress, a second-year history major, favors the new policy.
‘Smoking is a habit that not only affects the smoker, but the people around them,’ Andress said. ‘It is not fair to non-smokers to have to deal with the harms of second-hand smoke, so changing the policy only benefits people who do not feel like breathing unhealthy air.’
Saba Al-Hashimi, a first-year biological sciences major, feels differently.
‘I disagree that there should be any law regarding how far away you should be from the building,’ Al-Hashimi said. ‘As long as you are outside and away from windows, there should be no reason for a law to exist. Anything more is just trying to make smokers look like outcasts.’