The stricter smoking policy is being developed by a special task force and the President’s Advisory Committee. It could come to the board of trustees for approval sometime this year. If the board approves the new policy, it could take effect as early as June, school president Bill Scroggins said.
Students, staff or faculty caught violating the policy would be subject to a $35 fine for the first offense and $70 for a second offense, according to the committee meeting minutes of Dec. 7.
“We want student buy-in, and we want employee buy-in because we want this to succeed,” said Sandy Samples, director of health services who chaired the task force that developed the new proposal.
Smoking is now banned inside buildings, but students and staff can smoke anywhere on campus as long as they don’t light up less than 20 feet from a building entrance.
Scroggins said the policy changes are part of a national trend.
“It is part of a national effort to have healthy practices on campus, and that includes a variety of initiatives. Certainly encouraging people not to smoke, to be healthier, is one of them,” Scroggins said.
The restrictions proposed for Mt. SAC are less severe than a campuswide complete ban on tobacco use passed last month by the UC Board of Regents for its 10 campuses. The ban there will go into effect gradually over two years.
Though Mt. SAC is still ironing out the details, it plans on installing between 12 and 16 smoking shelters, where smoking would be allowed, in various locations around the 421-acre campus, including some near the engineering building and the Student Life Center, according to a map from the committee working on the proposal.
The idea is to keep smokers at Mt. SAC more than five minutes from any building entrance, Scroggins said.
“This is a nice compromise. Those who smoke would have a place to go. And those who don’t smoke will have less exposure (to second-hand smoke),” Samples said.
Still, Jesse Perez, 21, a member of Mt. SAC’s Associated Students and a smoker until recently, said most of the smokers he spoke with are against the proposal.
UC Regents and UC President Mark Yudof say their policy is an attempt to prevent young people from picking up the smoking habit. Many people begin smoking between the ages of 18 and 24, experts say. The UCs want to reduce the number of student smokers on their campuses.
Scroggins said universities and colleges in the state are working together to improve student health.
“It is sending a message,” he said. “It lets everyone know this is not an acceptable social practice. An educated person has the knowledge to recognize that. We are encouraging behavioral change to go along with educated decisions.”
State law, known as Assembly Bill 795, gives each college board the authority to implement no smoking policies and impose fines not exceeding $100. Scroggins said Mt. SAC’s proposed $35 fine was decided upon because it equals the fine for a parking violation. Money collected from fines would fund smoking cessation programs.
In August 2009, Pasadena City College implemented a no-smoking policy on the 53-acre campus except in four outdoor designated smoking areas, according to PCC spokesman Juan Gutierrez. Like at Mt. SAC, the idea originated with student government, he said.
Scroggins said Mt. SAC’s Associated Students recommended the designated smoking areas to the President’s Advisory Committee last year. The PAC could approve the proposal at its meeting in March, sources said. It would then be sent to the board of trustees for final approval.
If approved, Mt. SAC would launch an information campaign to prepare its 60,000 students and 3,600 employees for the change, possibly to occur during summer classes or at the start of the fall semester.
Citrus College in Glendora does not have such a policy. Students can smoke anywhere outside as long as they are more than 20 feet from a building’s entrance or window.
In California, smoking rates among adults reached an all-time low of 11.9 percent in 2011, according to the California Department of Public Health’s Tobacco Control Program. This compares with 13.1 percent in 2009.
Still, Samples isn’t convinced the stricter smoking policy would cause student smokers to quit. “Hopefully it will make a difference in somebody’s life,” she added.