Someday, the Trojan Family might have to answer questions about where students can smoke marijuana on campus, but first the university needs to deal with an unresolved issue: cigarette smoke.
Two years ago, the Office of the Provost charged the Work and Family Life Advisory Committee two years ago with the task of looking at wellness on campus, including the responsibility to determine how students, staff and faculty felt about smoking on campus. The group has not yet made a recommendation of whether or not to revise the current campus smoking policy.
Nearly 400 American colleges and universities, including 19 in California, have smoke-free campuses indoors and outdoors with no exceptions; another 80 campuses are nearly smoke-free with a few exceptions for remote outdoor areas.
Although USC could decide to ban smoking on campus altogether, the best solution is a closer adherence to the current smoke-free policy that is listed in the SCampus Student Guidebook.
In the smoking policy, the university recognizes the need to accommodate those who choose to smoke. According to USC’s 2007 Health Assessment, 3.3 percent of undergraduates and 2.6 percent of graduates reported smoking on a daily basis.
On a college campus, exposure to secondhand smoke in most cases is fleeting.
At issue, then, is the brief encounters people have with individuals who smoke outside of residential buildings, classrooms and dining facilities.
Although the health effects of intermittent exposure might be unclear, the fact that smoke can annoy people is clear is as ever. Secondhand smoke leaves many with coughing spurts, tears in their eyes and general irritation.
The current smoking policy attempts to bring “a safe and healthy environment” to everyone on campus. It bans smoking “in all enclosed buildings, facilities and university vehicles, which are owned or leased by the university, on both the University Park Campus and the Health Sciences Campus.”
Yet, there are the handful of university employees who light up during breaks while still sitting in their pick-up trucks, especially along the northern end of McClintock Avenue.
The policy further states that “administrative and academic units may designate existing outdoor space as smoking areas, but these areas should be located far enough away from doorways, windows and ventilation systems to prevent smoke from entering enclosed buildings and facilities.”
These so-called designated smoking areas, however, don’t seem to exist or be clearly delineated. Instead, people light up next to doorways all over campus. This is especially troublesome outside a building such as the Von KleinSmid Center, where air seems to get trapped under the walkways over the doors. One walks outside from an air-conditioned building only to unexpectedly enter into a pool of cigarette smoke.
Creating remote locations for smoking would only allow smokers to continue smoking without the inconvenience of a total ban.
As the university continues to follow through on its intent to reduce what it calls a “health hazard in our campus environment,” the best policy appears to be to follow the current policy by giving smokers some direction to where they can enjoy their unhealthy habits.
Paresh Dave is a freshman majoring in print journalism.