Several months after Santa Monica College (SMC) students were asked in an election held by the Associated Students, “Should SMC be a smoke-free campus?” and 62.9 percent of the voters said “yes,” the college’s board of trustees voted to make SMC smoke-free at its meeting Monday, June 11th.
The original recommendation before the board, submitted by SMC president Chui L. Tsang, was a revision to the current policy that would have permitted smoking in “designated areas” on campus only.
But, after public comment, trustee Margaret Qui“ones-Perez made a motion to change that recommendation and ban smoking enirely on campus, effective immediatedly, with no transitional period. It passed 5-2.
Currently, smoking is prohibited within 25 feet of buildings, entrances and windows on campus.
Tsang said that it is important to have designated smoking areas on campus so that surrounding neighborhood sidewalks will not become the “unintended smoking areas.”
“It’s not an endorsement of smoking,” Tsang explained. “It’s something that would allow us to exist in peace with our neighbors.”
However, many, including SMC student and father Mike Bone, expressed their disappointment with the original recommendation, which did not propose a smoke-free campus as the majority of student voters asked for in April.
“This ignores what students want,” Bone said of the recommendation submitted by Tsang. “The student body voted to ban smoking. It is embarrassing to me that the University of Arkansas has banned smoking on campus and Santa Monica College has not.
“Trustees, I encourage you to amend the resolution to actually ban smoking on campus.”
SMC Academic Senate president Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein agreed. He, like Bone, wondered what had happened to the proposal for a smoke-free campus.
“I think that it is appropriate for your body to amend the read tonight and move to banning smoking on campus,” he said. “Second-hand smoke is toxic, it’s dangerous. We need to do what’s right.”
Robert Berger, president of Healthier Solutions, Inc. in Santa Monica, a group that is dedicated to promoting the rights of non-smokers, also spoke.
“Designated areas normalize smoking,” he said, pointing out that it is difficult to enforce smoking in these areas. “There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.
“I really implore you to go back to what the students and DPAC [District Planning and Advisory Committee] asked for — a smoke-free campus.”
Gloria Lopez, a nurse who is coordinator of Health Services for SMC, spoke before the board and held up a thick folder of complaints she had received regarding smoking on campus.
Lopez, who said she thought the campus should be smoke-free, stressed that the number of complaints is increasing.
“We’re not asking people not to smoke,” she said. “It’s just, ‘Don’t smoke on campus.’
“I would ask you to do what students have asked you to do and ban smoking at Santa Monica College.”
At the meeting, no members of the public spoke against a smoke-free campus.
In the April election conducted by the Associated Students — which represent the interests of the student body on campus — 62.9 percent of voters answered “yes” to the question “Should SMC be a smoke free campus?”
Only about eight percent of the entire student body of about 30,000 students participated. And only 7.4 percent, or 2,229 students, voted on the question “Should SMC be a smoke-free campus?”
Of those 2,229 voters, 1,402 voted for a smoke-free campus and 827 voted against.
Nonetheless, the Associated Students decided to bring the matter before the board of trustees for a vote, and they have gotten mixed reviews for it, especially since such a small per- centage of the student population voted.
“I mean, it’s only seven percent of the entire campus that voted on this,” SMC student Lindsay Pieper told The Argonaut. “I don’t think that represents the whole student body. And I think a lot of students on campus are smokers.”
At the June 11th board meeting, after several speakers adamantly expressed how they thought the recommendation should be revised to reflect “what the students wanted,” a smoke-free campus, the board discussed the item further.
Trustee Qui“ones-Perez made the motion to change the recommendation from allowing designated smoking areas on campus to banning smoking entirely on campus, with no transitional period to install the revised policy.
Trustee Nancy Greenstein expressed her concern about not having a transitional period to adjust to the revised policy on campus.
“I’m not ready to support this, especially without a transitional year,” said Greenstein.
She said she would like to see the board work toward making SMC smoke-free, but through a transition.
Trustees Greenstein and Louise Jaffe were also both concerned about how making SMC a smoke-free campus would affect the local neighborhood.
“I do think we have a responsibility to our neighbors and community,” said Jaffe, who was concerned clusters of smokers would start to gather on the streets and sidewalks surrounding campus.
Board vice chair Rob Rader said he had planned to vote for the original recommendation submitted by Tsang, but after hearing members of the public speak, he thought it best that SMC be smoke-free and would support Perez’s motion.
“I am moved by what I heard,” said Rader, whose aunt is currently in and out of the hospital with lung cancer.
“Our students spoke [when they voted in the April election],” said new student trustee Adel Morad, who smokes but nonetheless supports a smoking ban on campus. “I just really feel, if our constituents voted for a smoke-free campus, that that’s what it should be.”
When it came time for a vote, trustees Andrew Walzer and Greenfield were the only two to vote against the motion for a smoke-free campus. Jaffe did initially, but asked at the last moment to change her vote.
The board also asked staff to come back with recommendations on ways to address education and enforcement of the revised policy.
The second reading and final approval of the revised smoking policy (Board Policy 2440) will be held at the next board meeting.