Smokers neglected after ban

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By Griffith Fuller

By Griffith Fuller

As if there aren’t enough bans against smoking, adults paying to attend college can’t smoke on campus. There are a few exceptions, like the designated smoking areas, but even those hardly exist. Two years ago RCC’s Board of Trustees approved the ban of cigarette smoking and put it into effect in 2003, making RCC only the third public college in the state to become non-smoking.

RCC’s Health Services’ staff would like to see the designated smoking areas completely eliminated. They advise individual smokers to seek help and focus on quitting rather than fight for their rights on campus. That’s obviously easier said than done.

To the right of Room 101 in the Life Science building there is an ashtray attached to the wall. Cigarette butts lay scattered in the sparkly black sand inside of the tray. They also litter the bottom of trees around the Physical Science area. To the left of the door is a blue and white sign that reads “No Smoking Inside College Buildings.”

Designated smoking areas are generally set in secluded vicinities away from classrooms, but for some reason there is an ashtray outside of a department office.

According to RCC’s Health Services’ staff, students are “lucky” to have the three nearly non-existent smoking areas. But many students can’t even identify the them.

The designated area in front of the Technology A building overlooks parking lot F. The scattered cigarettes tell visitors to the area that this is one of the designated smoking areas. One problem: there is no sign posted that declares it so. An employee from the Technology A building said the sign was once there, but it was stolen.

The second designated area is above the school’s Warehouse to the left of the Cosmotology building. On the other side of the Cosmotology building is an unofficial smoking area with tables and benches under trees in the shade.

The third designated area lies across from the A. G. Paul Quadrangle in front of the Martin Luther King Library, which is under construction. This is probably the most popular smoking area on campus because it’s the most noticeable one. Some students make it a daily hangout spot between classes, but this was rudely interrupted by the invasive pipe laying that left dirt piles all over the area.

The designated smoking sign at the Cosmotology building is missing as well and the designated smoking sign that once stood visible in the main area was removed during construction. Now students sit and hang out on the steps leading to the Quad entrance with cigarettes in hand chatting away.

Student’s reaction to the ban and construction at the MLK library area is split.

“It’s sad because we’re college students and we’re placed in a dominion bubble where we can smoke. The construction had to happen, but if it had to be at a designated smoking area then they should have a new one. People don’t know where to go and they need more ash trays,” said student Lacy Carter.

Even I had to stand across or in front of the smoking area to have a quick cigarette during class intermission. With no ash trays around many students toss their cigarette butts in the dirt or on the ground.

“There’s nothing you can really do about the construction. (In front of the Quad] is the new designated smoking area. As long as I can smoke somewhere,” student Andrew Valenzuela said. “It’s ridiculous to say no to smoking on campus.”

It’s not ridiculous at all to RCC’s Health Services. Its representatives, David Numan and Royce Charlton stated that there is jurisdiction behind the ban. They said there are less than 15 percent of students that smoke, and even chewing tobacco is prohibited on campus. Does this mean all of the “tar chewers” are going to have to actually stand next to smokers, chewing and spitting away?

Advising all student and staff smokers to just simply quit smoking is like telling Americans to stop eating greasy, artery clogging fast food. It simply isn’t going to happen.

Pushing smoking students aside sets them up to be ridiculed, but it’s better to be around other smokers than those who downright despise it.

“I don’t think that there should be a smoking ban; people will express dislike for smokers,” student Richard Luna said.

Student Irene Sanchez said, “I personally don’t see a problem with it. I don’t smoke, but I know that smoke bothers me, so I stay away from the designated areas.”

Robert, a student, said that in Ireland there is a smoking ban in all of the bars. In California smoking bans are popping up everywhere. Smoking is being prohibited on the beach and within 20 feet of office buildings. Not everyone is impartial to smoking however.

“I don’t think that there should be smoking period. Some people are allergic and it’s disgusting,” student Natasha Sambrano said. Student Shannell Dixson feels that if there are designated areas, non-smokers won’t have to breathe in smoke. Some students like Vanessa Murray and I feel that as long as smoking isn’t done inside of a closed building than it’s not a problem on campus. It’s obvious that most smoking students wouldn’t light up in the middle of a class lecture. They would be too embarrassed to do so anyway; I surely wouldn’t do it.

“Some of the smoking areas are unsafe at night,” a student named Tim said.

This may be a bigger concern to campus security although discipline for smoking violations is taken half-heartedly. The strict enforcement promised in 2002 is ludicrous. RCC’s police officers even said they don’t enforce citations. When I asked about it, one officer said that a defiant student will be warned and given a yellow card, and if he or she continues to violate the rule then he or she will be referred to the dean of student services.

“Why have a ban when there’s still pollution. It’s still going to float around in the atmosphere. You can’t contain smoke, bottom line! If the rule isn’t going to be enforced than why have it?” Student Carissa Ashley said.

Eddie Sanchez, a student representative to Dr. Salvatore Rotella’s strategic planning committee, is searching for new designated smoking areas for student and staff smokers. He works with a sub-committee that researches smoking. “What we are trying to do is find an accommodation for the students and faculty. We’re looking for ideas that will be reasonable for students. They have the same rights as every one else. They’re paying to go here. Not all smokers are students, there’s faculty as well. This is to accommodate everyone. President Danny Wilson fought to have the Technology and Cosmotology designated areas. We’re fighting to keep those areas. The construction at the MLK library kind of took everyone by surprise.”

“Construction there will be done probably in two weeks. I don’t know about the landscape. My job is to put in the main line. The designated smoking sign will be placed back,” said field supervisor for Perera Construction & Design James MClure.

Smokers are unimpressed with the triumphant return of the main smoking area. There’s dirt on the ground left from the construction. The little grass that used to be there is long gone. Students detest the idea of sitting on dirt, so most of them go across from the designated area leaving artist Willam Mitchell’s sculpture standing alone.

“It was nicer before, now it feels like their kicking us out of our turf,” Alex Veasy said.

I think that smokers feel as if they’re victims of Big Brother and others feel as if they’re around their “own kind,” but nearly every smoker would probably agree with Veasy, “They shouldn’t make us feel guilty about smoking.”

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