The Smoking Question Keeps Burning

It's a humid day, and you're sitting in class watching the droll drip from your ancient professors face, waiting for the minute hand to strike eight. The classroom is a sauna and all you want is the cool breeze from the beach to glaze your body. Instead another type of glaze makes it's way towards you, cigarette smoke. Not only coming from the windows, but making it through the air vents. For non-smokers this is a harsh reality here at Santa Monica College. Especially for students inside the liberal arts building, or library village. Now let's flip the script. You're a smoker who has been in 3 hours of classes, 2 tests, and 1 debate. After a hectic day like this one, the only thing you can do to alleviate the street is enjoy a cigarette. After spending twenty minutes circumnavigating campus looking for a "smoking area" all the while walking past leagues of smokers casually smoking through campus you decide that enough is enough and light up right next to a "no-smoking" sign. Smokers have given up on trying to understand the smoking policy and the school is doing nothing about it.

Rain causes more problems for smokers than the heat. It's well known that the "smoking areas" on campus are not covered, and it's just as well known that the smokers aren't going to be smoking in the rain. So they usually huddle up by the counseling complex, or even seep into the liberal arts hall. Places like Drescher Hall and the Humanities and Social Science building also provide a haven for smokers to smoke without getting wet. Not to long ago a type of above ground platform for smokers, with benches and canopy to protect from the seasons was proposed. The proposed area was in between the Business complex and the Humanities and Social Science building. However, the idea was tossed aside in fear of an uproar from the community, who would not in the least approve of the necessary funds to support a demographic they want to get rid of altogether.

"It just doesn't make sense to have rules on smoking if no one enforces them. It just gives the non-smokers hope, and makes the smokers confused. We can't ignore the smokers, they're people too who deserve the comfort of a nice smoking area, but it's important to make it out of the way of non-smokers so that they have a comfortable experience on campus as well." These are the words of Michelle Gunn, a Design major who walks passed the "smoking section" on the way to class every morning.

Fall of 2008, the smoking policy was nearly turned into a smoking ban. The Board of Trustees voted 4-3 to ban smoking completely on campus. A month after the vote, trustee Margaret Quiñones-Perez changed her vote, canceling the smoking ban. Since then the policy has been left in a sort of administrative limbo. Unclear whether or not a smoking policy would fall within the facilities planning subcommittee or the college services subcommittee, DPAC has simply left it alone. School administrators have told the campus police not to prosecute smokers, in fear of a backlash. However, they have no problems posting signs, which are basically arbitrary. This confuses smokers and non-smokers alike as to what the rules actually are. This leads both parties pointing fingers at each other.

With tempers at a boiling point, and confusion running rampant is it any wonder that this problem, which could easily be a minor one, is attracting the kind of attention it is. The "smoke-free" campus SMC claims to be is in actuality nothing more then a claim. The administrations lack of progress on this initiative is hurting both smokers and non-smokers alike, and creating a detest for one another. The smokers are currently hold a false comfort about smoking in "non-smoking" zones, which may one day lead to citations when the administration gets enough grief from non-smokers on campus. Both sides of issue see a perfect example of hypocrisy, and lies. The school says one thing, but does another. As long as students continue to smoke it doesn't look like we'll ever see this issue burn out.