On Jan. 10, USC joined 1,827 higher education institutions across the country in prohibiting smoking on campus. The University banned cigarettes, e-cigarettes, hookahs and other products on all University-owned property, including fraternity and sorority houses on the Row. However, enforcing this policy has been difficult — and with the rise in popularity of new forms of smoking, students are continuing to engage in an activity that USC is trying to eradicate.
USC’s Undergraduate Student Government passed a resolution supporting a campus-wide ban on smoking in March 2016, and the Academic Senate — a consultative body of professors representing the interests of the faculty — followed up with a resolution of its own in September before the change was formally adopted by the University in January.
But enforcement of the policy rests on the administration and the Department of Public Safety. DPS Assistant Chief David Carlisle said that when DPS officers see someone smoking on campus, the standard procedure is to inform them of the policy and hand them a small card containing information about smoking cessation programs offered on campus.
“We rarely get a complaint about people violating the no-smoking policy,” Carlisle said.
Some students said they have continued to smoke on campus because they disagree with the idea of an absolute ban and believe that people who want to smoke should have an opportunity to do so.
“Some people smoke for fun, and some people smoke because they’re addicted, but it’s their right to smoke,” said Jad Saleh, an e-cigarette user, who is also a freshman majoring in business administration. “I think there should at least be designated spots for people who smoke so they don’t have to go off campus.”
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, and nearly one in 10 college students in America die prematurely because of tobacco use, according to the Academic Senate’s proposal to ban smoking on campus. Paula Cannon, president of the Academic Senate, said that the Senate developed its proposal to mitigate the potential for harm that cigarettes pose to the University community.
“We had quite thoughtful discussions [at] the Academic Senate on this topic,” Cannon said. “What swayed us this year was the quantity and quality of evidence against smoking — not just how it impacts all of us whenever we encounter it, but also the impact of secondhand smoke.”
But some students — such as Olivia Marshall, a freshman majoring in real estate development — think that the ban should not apply to all forms of smoking. Marshall said e-cigarettes and vape pens should be permitted on campus, since they can cause less harm to the environment.
“When it comes to e-cigarette usage, there’s no worry about secondhand smoke,” Marshall said. “[And] no one is leaving their cigarette butts anywhere.”
She also added that JUULs, electronic cigarettes with a high concentration of nicotine, have become increasingly popular with USC students, especially because of their size and convenience. E-cigarettes are known to be as addictive as other tobacco products, according to a study from the American Chemical Society. Nine out of 17 common, commercially available e-cigarettes contain the most addictive kind of nicotine, according to TIME magazine.
JUULs fall under the no-smoking policy due to their status as an e-cigarette. But despite their popularity with students, Cannon said the benefits of a smoke-free campus outweigh the rights of individual students to use any form of tobacco products.
“While we all grow up with different habits and expectations as to what’s normal, when we join a pluralistic society like USC, I think we also take on the fact that there are just certain things we do because we want to be good neighbors and we want to do the things that are the most socially acceptable to the most people,” Cannon said. “It’s imperfect, but I think on so many levels smoking is really not acceptable.”