A new smoke-free ban at UCLA, which was announced Tuesday, has re-energized the debate surrounding the implementation of a smoke-free ban on campus at USC.
UCLA is the first of the UC schools to put a restriction on smoking on campus.
USC currently follows the same rules as California legislation: Smoking is not allowed inside public establishments, and smokers have to be at least 20 feet from a building to light up. To accommodate students who do not smoke, there are multiple designated smoke-free areas around campus.
As of spring 2012, 14.4 percent of USC students smoked daily or one or more days a week, according to a report by the USC American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment. The same study found that undergraduates smoke more frequently than graduate students.
Student reactions have been fairly positive to the designated smoking areas and the current rules about smoking. Many students, however, are opposed to adopting a ban on smoking.
Henrique Malvar, a senior majoring in political science, and a smoker, opposes having a smoke-free campus.
“I’m a courteous smoker so I’m fine with having a designated smoking area,” Malvar said. “It’s not fair for someone to walk out of a building expecting to get fresh air and instead gets a whiff of nicotine. But if you do a full-on ban that’s just too extreme.”
Some non-smoking students also are satisfied with the current smoking rules and do not see a need for a change.
“There’s already too many rules,” said Emily Frank, a junior majoring in business administration. “We are all college students so we have the right to choose if we want to smoke or not.”
Yet other students believe that smoking should be more restricted on campus and match up with the no-smoking ban that UCLA adopted. One such student, Sydney Golombek, a sophomore majoring in American studies and ethnicity, said she is in favor of USC going smoke-free.
“I think there should be a ban,” Golombek said. “It’s much safer and healthier and I’m all for that on campus.”
Last year, Undergraduate Student Government held a forum and distributed surveys to determine student interest in having a smoking ban on campus. Because some of the survey data was skewed, this year’s student government is redistributing the surveys. Last year, USG presented a senate resolution that favored keeping the current policy for smoking, yet advocating that the school better inform the students of the smoking rules.
USG Campus Director, Wiley Strahan, a senior majoring in health promotion and disease prevention studies, said student government is working to gauge student interest in implementing more stringent smoking regulations on campus.
“We’re looking to see what the students feel with the climate on campus,” Strahan said. “It’ll be a few weeks before we can start moving forward, but right now we’re looking at what other large, private universities are doing with their smoking rules.”
USG President Mikey Geragos believes USG has to get feedback from the student body before they can take a stance on a smoke-free campus.
“We are taking a more comprehensive approach this year,” Geragos said. “We’re not sure if we’re advocating for a ban or not yet. We’re not trying to make a decision without knowing what the students will want first.”
USC has never had a ban on smoking on its University Park campus.
Though student input is important, health professionals believe the health benefits outweigh temporal student opinions.
The director of the office of wellness and health promotion, Paula Swinford, works with enhancing student wellness and reducing health risks for students on campus. Swinford remains an advocate for a smoke-free campus.
“There’s nothing good about smoking,” Swinford said. “You’re basically choosing to shorten your quantity and quality of life, but unfortunately it’s such an ingrained part of our culture.”
Some students oppose the smoking ban because they also believe that smoking is too ubiquitous to regulate.
“Smoking is already banned everywhere in California,” said Aneesa Al-Musawwir, a junior majoring in jazz studies. “I don’t know how much more strict these rules can get.”
Though student reaction is mixed, Swinford emphasized the importance of implementing a ban in light of UCLA’s newest policy. She said this is especially important considering students who make it through college without smoking are unlikely to smoke throughout the rest of their life.
“A student who goes to UCLA and lives on their smoke-free campus will graduate healthier than a USC student living in an environment of smoking,” Swinford said. “There is really no reason to not move forward on a smoke-free campus. It’s just a matter of when. I’m just surprised that UCLA had to beat us to it.”