Should Santa Monica College (SMC) be a smoke-free campus?

That is one of the questions on the ballot in this yearís Associated Students of SMC election, being held from Monday through Thursday, April 2nd to 5th.

Currently, smoking is prohibited within 25 feet of buildings, entrances and windows on campus, said SMC spokesman Bruce Smith.

Depending on the results of the election ó which should be released Friday, April 6th ó and the percentage of the student population that votes, the Associated Students might bring the matter to the college board of trustees for a vote, which could potentially make the campus smoke-free.

In 2005, students were asked in the annual election, ìShould SMC be a smoke-free campus or have designated smoking areas?î Although the majority voted yes, the voter turnout was reportedly not considered sufficient for Associated Students to bring the issue before the board of trustees.

For now, this yearís vote ìis simply a measure of student supportî for a ban, said Evan Madeo, student director of financial support for Associated Students. ìItís a gauge. From there it becomes a political issue.î

Lindsay Pieper, a 19-year-old SMC student who smokes, says she believes there should be designated areas to smoke on campus, but that the college should not be entirely smoke-free.

ìI voted no for a completely smoke-free campus because I think there should be designated areas on campus for smokers,î Pieper said. ìNot everyone likes being around smoke and I understand that.î

Pieper, who says sheís environmentally conscious, dislikes the fact that people leave their cigarette butts around campus.

ìAlthough I smoke, I donít litter,î she said, as she put her finished cigarette into her coffee cup. ìI think smoking is okay, but I think people are careless about throwing away their butts on the ground, and thatís not okay.î

SMC student Nansi Cisneros, 25, said it was a tough question for her to answer on the election ballot, but she still voted yes for a smoke-free campus.

ìI donít smoke and I donít like to smoke, but I donít know,î she said. ìIt [a smoke-free campus] takes away your freedom, but itís a really, really hard decision. There are students that have asthma. Smokingís unhealthy. But if I smoked, I wouldnít want someone to tell me not to. Just like I donít want someone to take away my freedom of expression.î

Cisneros said the smell of smoke bothers her ó and the littering of cigarette butts does too ó so she just stays away from smokers.

SMC student Yoandra Magallanes, 20, who had not yet voted at Argonaut press time, said she was going to vote for a smoke-free campus ìall the wayî before elections were over.

ìI hate how it smells,î Magallanes said of cigarettes. ìI think itís nasty. Your breath smells; your hair smells. For me, itís not something Iíd like to surround myself with.î

Magallanes pointed out that smoke from cigarettes is a health hazard to everyone and that when students smoke on campus, the smoke spreads and the air bothers people who donít smoke.

ìItís not fair for other people that are not smoking,î Magallanes said. ìItís a health issue.î

Magallanes said she would support one designated area where people could smoke on campus, although that is not an option on this yearís ballot.

ìI personally think that SMC should be a smoke-free campus,î said Madeo, who is on the Associated Students board of directors. ìI think it should be a smoke-free nation. Thereís no good reason for people here to smoke. I do not agree with smoking here on campus.î

Still, Madeo said he would take everything into consideration before he casts any vote that comes before him.

Smoking is already very restricted in public areas in Santa Monica.

In 2003, smoking was prohibited in all parks in the city.

Then in 2004, smoking was prohibited at all city beaches, government service waiting areas and most areas of the Santa Monica Pier.

Last year, the City Council voted to prohibit smoking on the Third Street Promenade, all farmers markets, and all outdoor dining areas and outdoor service areas, such as bus stops, ATM lines and movie theater lines, in Santa Monica.

Additionally, smoking was banned within 20 feet of entrances, exits or open windows of buildings open to the public.

The California Smoke-Free Workplace Act also prohibits smoking in most indoor workplaces in the state, including the majority of bars and restaurants, and makes it a crime for business owners to allow smoking by customers.

ìThis idea of creating a smoke-free campus or perhaps having designated areas for smoking has been discussed off and on by several groups for several years,î said SMC spokesman Smith. ìIt will be interesting to see what comes out of this campus referendum.î