New policy smothers smoking

Donna P. Crilly

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Ashtrays are gone; butts are out. Smoking at San Diego City College has officially been banned for the 2009-10 academic school year.

Banners promoting a smoke-free campus with “for the health of it” blazed in bold type are posted throughout the school.

“The whole goal is to promote a healthy school,” Denise Whisenhunt, dean of student affairs, said. “As a campus community, we’re embracing it.”

Before the transition to a non-smoking school, students were allowed to light-up anywhere on campus except for “covered areas.”

Summer 2009 eased students into the ban by allowing designated smoking areas, including parking lots. Now, only parking lots and city sidewalks along the outskirts of the college allow smoking.

The idea for the ban was brought to the attention of the Associated Student Government during the 2006-2007 school year. A survey conducted during the spring 2007 ASG election posed the question of eliminating smoking on campus.

Barely more than 100 students voted on the issue, yielding a slight skew toward non-smoking.

However, ASG concluded that the small amount of people who voted didn’t represent the opinion of the 17,000-student population, according to San Diego City College President Terrence Burgess.

Also, the vote didn’t include the staff and employee opinion, who are as much a part of the decision as students are, Burgess notes.

Last spring, ASG raised the issue again and decided on designated smoking areas for the summer, and a smoke-free campus for the 2009-2010 school year.

Another vote is expected to take place in April 2010, which will survey plans in continuing a smoke-free campus, assigning designated smoking areas, or reverting back to no smoking under covered areas, according to Burgess.

“In a sense, this is a trial year,” Burgess said. “I think this is the kind of issue that ought to reflect the voices of the students and the staff, and what they want to do.”

However, Burgess is indifferent toward the issue. “Personally, I don’t have passion about it either way,” Burgess said.

Since the smoking ban is a violation of the student code of conduct and not against the law, there will be no heavy-handed enforcement.

“Our police department has a stance where we remind students that it’s a smoke-free campus and that it’s a violation of the student code of conduct policy 3100,” Sgt. Jordan Mirakian of the San Diego Community College District police said.

“Low-key enforcement” is what Burgess called it.
“We cannot arrest someone for smoking, student or non-student,” Mirakian said.

No tickets or citations will be handed out either, according to Mirakian. The only course of action for a non-complying smoke violator will be a San Diego Community College District policy write-up, which will be brought to the attention of Dean Whisenhunt. Whisenhunt will handle each case individually and cannot give a general disciplinary action description for potential violators.

No write-ups have been recorded since summer and it isn’t expected to be an issue during the school year, according to Mirakian.

“We rarely have that come up,” Mirakian said referring to students who ignore the smoking ban. “Most people are compliant,” he said.

Student opinion on the policy varies.

“I love my lungs. [The smoking ban is] a good thing,” Rogelio Rodriguez, 25, said.

“It doesn’t really matter. I don’t care,” William Caulder, 21, said.

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