The Smoke-Free Campus Coalition, which consists of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff, was formed last fall with the goal of changing USC’s smoking policy to that of a 100 percent smoke- and tobacco-free environment and of promoting a culture of health. In February, the SFCC surveyed the student body in order to ascertain whether or not students were in favor of becoming a smoke-free campus. Of the 3,410 undergraduates who responded, 83 percent supported or were neutral to USC becoming a smoke-free campus. Graduate students showed even more support, with 88 percent of the 2,175 graduate student respondents saying they support or are neutral to such a policy change. And if those statistics aren’t enough, USG’s unanimous vote to pass the Smoke-Free USC Resolution speaks for itself. USC students are ready to go smoke-free.
Students are not the only constituency that supports a smoke-free USC. In November, the Staff Assembly Environment Committee disseminated a survey to USC staff about becoming a smoke-free campus. Of the 2,271 staff that responded, 82 percent supported or were neutral to becoming smoke-free. Faculty members have also shown favor towards updating the policy. Just last week, the Dornsife College Faculty Council voted unanimously to support the Smoke-Free USC Resolution.
The author of the Daily Trojan opinion piece “Does a ban on smoking on USC’s campus really make sense?” raised some concerns about USC going smoke-free that the SFCC would like to address. To start, choosing to use tobacco is a personal choice, not a constitutional right. Every court that has been faced with the issue of whether smoking is a protected right has decided that a fundamental “right to smoke” does not exist so long as a smoking regulation is rationally related to a legitimate government purpose. In this case, that purpose is to protect public health and the environment. The implementation of a smoke-free policy does not take away an individual’s right to use tobacco. It simply limits where an individual may use tobacco in order to protect the community’s health.
Although there are currently designated smoking areas on campus, these areas are disregarded by many smokers. Another unfortunate reality is that secondhand smoke does not recognize the existence of these designated areas either. Perimeter policies do nothing to address the risks associated with exposure to secondhand smoke, a toxin which the U.S. Surgeon General has deemed there is no safe level of exposure. Furthermore, perimeter policies do not alleviate the health concerns of those who suffer from asthma attacks, allergies and/or bronchitis, all of which can be triggered by even brief exposure to secondhand smoke. It is imperative that we recognize and respect the health needs of others in our community.
As for chewing tobacco, it is not as harmless as it may first appear. While the use of chewing tobacco may eliminate the problem of secondhand smoke, it still poses a threat to health and the environment. When users of chewing tobacco spit, the chemicals from the tobacco product can end up leaching into the groundwater, or be stepped in and tracked into homes, classrooms, etc., contaminating those environments as well.
USC’s transition to a smoke and tobacco-free environment is long overdue. As of January, there were 1,475 smoke-free college campuses in the United States, and the University has failed to keep pace with its peer institutions on this critical matter of public health. It is time that the University recognizes its responsibility to exercise leadership in the promotion of a healthy, smoke-free environment for all.
Junior, human aging and development