Students at Saddleback College speak up about the lenient and unenforced smoking policy.
They are large, square, red and white. They reside all over campus, in long hallways, next to classroom doors, in quad areas. They are ‘No Smoking’ signs and the signs are visible to students all over campus. Some of the signs have been vandalized, written on and covered up with stickers or marker, but worst of all, they are ignored.
Saddleback College has been referred to as many things. One of the most frequent words is Ashtray. Walking across campus for many students is a battle for fresh air. As early as 9 a.m. students are lighting up to get their nicotine fix before class starts.
“I have a nine o’clock math class and I walk through a cloud of smoke almost every morning I have that class. That’s three times a week.” Said Rachel Rogers, 21, Liberal Arts. If walking to class through a transparent barrier of second-hand smoke is bad, it definitely doesn’t help that Rogers is a former smoker.
“It’s really hard. I get to class and I’m already distracted, stressed, and my mind is somewhere else, all because of the smoke. I hate it.” Said Rogers.
According to Chief of Campus Police, Harry Parmer, Saddleback College follows the California Education codes #’s 7597,7598 which states: “Smoking is prohibited from all doorways, eating areas, study areas, hallways, stairs, restrooms, offices, meeting rooms, lecture halls, lounges, in all campus buildings, and other areas of the campus where non-smokers cannot avoid exposure to smoke. Smoking is also prohibited within 20 feet of all campus buildings, partially enclosed areas, bus-stop shelters, exterior stairways and landings.” Unfortunately, some students don’t think they have to obey the signs.
“I can smoke where I want, it’s a free country, and I have rights. I can go to war and die for my country, but I can’t have a cigarette. How is that fair?” said a student who wished to remain anonymous. But what happens to violators?
“If there is a complaint, we go and tell them to stop. It’s a free country.” Said Parmer. But it is not just a freedom issue; it’s also an issue of public health and safety.
Cigarettes are the No.1 cause of preventable death and No.1 cause of fire death in the United States according to the National Cancer Society (N.C.S). About 53,000 non-smokers die every year from exposure to second-hand smoke, according to a study by the N.C.S..
“My sinuses are sensitive to smoke and walking around Saddleback makes them go nuts. The most frustrating thing is that I can’t do anything about it.” Said Emily Trowbridge, 26, Anthropology.
Stress, peer pressure, boredom, wanting to fit in, and addiction all play a part in college students smoking. Nearly 31 percent of full-time college students smoke, according to the Federal Governments National Survey on Drug Use and Health. It doesn’t help that the tobacco industry has been focusing heavily on getting its promotional material to college students. But some schools have decided to change the smoking policy.
At least 43 campuses from California to New Jersey have gone smoke-free, a trend that is accelerating, according to Americans for Non-smokers’ Rights. Most have been community colleges and commuter schools, but larger universities are now jumping on the bandwagon and debating campus-wide bans. There are steps that smokers can take to be more courteous when smoking.
“I don’t think that we should try to force students to give up smoking, but we should try to reduce the amount of secondhand smoke everybody is exposed to.” said Trowbridge thoughtfully.
Saddleback does have information about programs for smokers looking to quit in the Health Services building. Also, smokers can wait to light up until they are in designated smoking areas, in which there are no smoking signs and the smoker is at least 20 feet from all buildings and open doors.