The Smoke Of UCI Smoke-Free

After winter break, UC Irvine students, staff and faculty were greeted with a new “smoke and tobacco-free” campus policy (with the exception of e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco). Some welcomed this new change, and others did not seem fazed by the abundance of “UCI Smoke-Free” banners plastered around campus. A few students have continued to smoke on campus; however sly their attempts to hide the lit cigarettes might be.

A mere two weeks after the new policy took effect, UC Irvine decided to very quietly fix their act of defiance. Initially, UC Irvine was the only one out of the nine UC campuses to allow e-cigs and chewing tobacco.

The exception was contradictory but that didn’t seem to bother UC Irvine administration, until last week. Despite the original UC Smoke-Free policy which clearly bans e cigarettes and chewing tobacco, UC Irvine let e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco slide.

Last week, UC Irvine reversed its decision to allow e-cigs and chewing tobacco joining the rest of the UC system. We are now an entirely smoke and tobacco free campus.

Don’t be surprised if this is the first time you are hearing of it since many of us found out through word of mouth. The policy change has since been confirmed, but no official campus email has been sent.

Restricting the flow of information regarding policy reversal does not foster transparency, which is at the expense of a misinformed student body.  Misinformation may not be the intent of the administration, but it is the result.

The addition of e-cigs and chewing tobacco to the ban is not necessarily frustrating, especially since it contradicted official UC policy to begin with. Rather what is frustrating is how the reversal was dealt with. The reversal happened the week of January 11, yet there was no official message or announcement from UC Irvine of this change.

Even professors have voiced their disappointment with the way this decision was made. UCI administration did not weigh the pros and cons of these practices on health but instead succumbed to political pressure and complied with the standards set by the UC system.

How are students going to be informed (other than through the New U editorial) that they can no longer use e-cigarettes or chewing tobacco?

Without a proper announcement, UCI students, staff and visitors have no way of knowing that UC Irvine changed its policy and may subject those who are caught smoking to the cruel and unusual punishment of a pamphlet on the perils of tobacco reminiscent of elementary school health class. The enforcement of a policy that gives people so much room to defy it is problematic: a pamphlet is unlikely to waver those who choose to defy the policy and smoke on campus.

The curt consultation with students reflects on UCI administration’s continued lack of transparency when it comes to bureaucratic measures.

The only student deliberation on the task force was with the two co-presidents of START (Students Task force Advocating Reducing Tobacco). The two students collaborating on a task force of 20 faculty and staff members cannot be considered adequate, or diverse student representation.

The student involvement in the task force was limited to begin with; but regardless, it is the obligation of the task force, under the purview of the Office of Chancellor Drake, to properly inform the students.


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