We come to school to learn. We spend thousands of dollars each year on our education, in the hopes of having substantial careers and making a difference one day. UCI, like all schools, is a learning institution. It is a place for study, for engaging in intellectual discourse, and for meeting others who share the same academic and recreational interests and goals. It is not a place for recreational drug use.
On January 1, 2014, UC Irvine became a smoke-free campus. Students, faculty and staff are no longer permitted to smoke anywhere on any properties owned by UCI, including on campus, and enforcement of this policy will be “educational.” But let’s face it — who does not already know the dangers of smoking and the addictiveness of nicotine? Tobacco prevention education has been part of all public and private school curriculum for several years now. It has been drilled into our minds, and proven with quantitative data, that cigarettes cause lung cancer, fill your lungs with tar, and shorten your life span. Thus, smoking cigarettes is a choice the same way attending university is a choice, and frankly, you don’t need cigarettes in your life to be happy. Because cigarettes are highly addictive, students (around 8 percent of UCI students smoke cigarettes) and university employees who have already become addicted to them cannot and will not likely stop smoking simply because of this new policy. Yet the policy applies only to smoking on UCI property.
In 2006, the members of the city council of Calabasas, a small affluent city in northern Los Angeles County, unanimously voted in favor of a Comprehensive Second Hand Smoke Control Ordinance that prohibits cigarette smoking outside of one’s private property, in order to improve the city’s air quality and eliminate any potential pollution or harm to city residents due to second-hand smoke. It is not wrong for the members of a community to desire cleaner and healthier air quality. UCI, an institution similarly “committed to providing a healthy working, learning and living environment for all members of the campus community and its visitors” has the right and responsibility to ensure its students’ well-being. Although UCI is a smoke-free campus, Irvine, unlike Calabasas, is not a smoke-free city, and those who wish to smoke can easily continue to do so, off campus.
The severity of UCI’s no smoking policy is contradictory in the fact that e-cigarettes, which contain nicotine, are still allowed, and individual campus units regulate their use within specific boundaries.
Though e-cigs do not pollute the air and cause harm to others the way second-hand smoke does, they can cause an individual to remain addicted to cigarettes.
However, e-cigs are also helpful for those wishing to gradually wean themselves off actual cigarettes, since they are not as harmful to the body, yet still contain tobacco.
The UC Irvine Health Education Center offers resources for those “who want to stop smoking.” Despite the intent, the policy is also presumptuous, in that it assumes that all smokers at UCI want to quit smoking, when the choice is entirely up to the individual.
Finally, the policy may appear as culturally insensitive to UCI’s large international student population, which consists of many individuals from countries where smoking might play a central role in culture and lifestyle. Yet if we expect international students to speak English and drive on the right side of the street, is it too much to ask them not to smoke on our campus?
Though UCI’s smoking policy may seem harsh — smoking is not even allowed in any UCI parking lot — it strongly and rightfully discourages the use of tobacco, particularly among young adults, who are most susceptible to addiction, and is consistent with several other UC’s attempts to wipe out tobacco use altogether. Is this the best policy UC Irvine could have come up with to regulate and gradually eliminate tobacco use on campus? No. Will it actually stop students from smoking cigarettes? Probably not. But it is certainly a step in the right direction.
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