A.S. Puts Proposition to Designate Smoking Areas at SMC on the April 4th Ballot

There is controversy in the air, as thick as smoke, as the Associated Students of Santa Monica College gears up for the elections, with a new addition to the ballot.

If you're an SMC student, and you've never taken an interest in voting before, this election might bring you to the polls. What you vote for this semester may affect your freedom on campus and the freedom of future students as well.

Starting April 4, the subject of whether or not SMC should be a smoke free campus, or have specific designated smoking areas, will be presented in the ballot as an opinion poll. Through voting, students have a chance to cast their say in the matter. The poll results will be taken into account, but in the end, the Board of Trustees will have the final word.

Students can pick up voting information at the A.S. office located above the cafeteria. The issue will almost certainly evoke feelings among students on campus. SMC student Robert Nugic, a non-smoker, thought that the students should determine the policy outcome.

"It depends on the percentage of students who smoke," Nugic said. When asked about a smoke-free campus he said, "Are they (the administration) prepared for the reaction of the students who smoke? They have their rights. Does it go too far if the idea will be realized?"

There are details about the possible amendments that are as of yet undecided. If SMC is to have designated smoking areas then the question becomes, where?

"There's not a lot of open space on campus to designate," said Eileen Miller, campus chief of police. The parking garages were one idea but non-smokers, who might have to walk through smoke to get back and forth to their vehicles, will likely object.

Miller also admits that if the policy changes it will be difficult to regulate. "It's got to be self-enforced," Miller said. The law does not provide funding for signage or enforcement. That does not mean that violators will not be ticketed, but Miller says that any new rules that go into effect will take time to be integrated into campus life, and tickets will be given out after a certain time span for repeated infractions. The administration will have to provide signs.

Robert Foster, Director of Academic Support, would like to see SMC completely smoke free. "I brought up the motion to put the survey on the ballot for April", Foster said, "I'm a non-smoker, but I used to smoke. Now that I don't, I find it especially irritating to smell someone else's cigarette smoke." Foster also said that he "has confidence in SMC students" to at least adopt a designated smoking area policy. Whether he's right or not will shortly be determined.

"What's next, bathroom passes?" said Micah Nettles, a smoker who performs music on campus and, although he wants to quit smoking himself, thinks that the new policy is another bureaucratic attempt to limit students' freedom. "My prediction is that if smoking is regulated you will see an increase in tardiness and a decrease in attendance. In the event of a designated smoking area Nettles said, "You'll have a stampede."

Samantha Silver, a non-smoking SMC student, had a different take.

"My Grandfather smoked five packs a day and killed himself. If people are going to smoke than they should kill themselves and not other people," she said, "I'm sure I have a lot of second hand smoke in my lungs already because my sister is a smoker."

It is in relation to health, and the law, that the possibility of revision of SMC's smoking policy was brought to council this year. Chief Miller and Gloria Lopez, director of health services, have been actively addressing SMC's smoking policy. The A.S. responded by volunteering to take the student pulse on the issue.

"They both expressed their gratitude to the A.S. for taking the smoking issue and putting it on the ballot to find out what the students prefer," said Tasneem Noor, director of student services. Noor, who is the direct liaison to Health Services, has had students address her directly with concerns of second-hand smoke on campus.

"I personally do not smoke." Noor said, "I don't like walking through a campus full of smoke, but because I represent both students who smoke and students who don't, I have to think things out more carefully."

Since the beginning of this year, the state of California has adopted a law requiring smokers to skirt entrances, exits, and operable windows of any building owned or leased by the state, county, or city. A smoker must travel twenty feet from any of these areas to indulge in a cigarette.

Ironically SMC already has a policy of twenty-five feet in place, so technically the campus is already in compliance with the new state law. However, there are those that believe that there is still room for improvement.