As of January 1, 2014, the smoke and tobacco free policy has been implemented on all University of California campuses.
On January 9, 2012 former UC President Mark Yudof wrote a letter to all University of California chancellors asking for their support in making the UC campuses completely smoke and tobacco free within 24 months. As we can see, UC officials granted former President Yudof’s wishes.
To specify, the ban is not only on smoking cigarettes, but on all use of unregulated nicotine products and tobacco, even if it is smokeless. For some odd reason, the policy includes a ban on electronic cigarettes, which cater to eliminating second-hand smoke.
Although a smoke and tobacco free campus may cause a safer environment, many students feel the decision to ban all tobacco products is a bit extreme. According to freshman Eric Lendrum, “The policy did not take into consideration students’ opinions. There was not even an opinion poll to see if students who pay to attend the university even want a policy like this.” Lendrum does not smoke or chew tobacco, yet his opinion is reflective of a general consensus among students that former President Yudof should have asked their opinions before making such a drastic move.
Across the nation, the United States has tried to cut back smoking. In Europe, however, it is quite the contrary. Pietro Moro, a student at UCSB, lived in Italy until the age of 17. As he tells, “At my high school in Italy, students were allowed to smoke on campus as long as they were 16.” UCSB boasts about bringing students to the university through foreign exchange programs and educating students that move here from another country as Moro did, yet UC officials don’t take into consideration the needs that these students may have, coming from very different cultures.
As a smoker, Moro explains, “The policy may not affect me now, but when it comes down to crunch time with midterms and finals, a smoker will always find a way to smoke. I am not sure why they didn’t find a middle ground such as putting in designated smoking areas.”
Moro’s uncertainties are well-founded and justified. Why didn’t the policy implement designated smoking areas? Designated smoking areas would allow nicotine and tobacco users the freedom to use their product of choice while also reducing second-hand smoke on campus — everybody wins. But apparently allowing designated smoking areas or electronic cigarettes was not drastic enough for the UC system.
During an interview with senior Ben Abrams, the question of electronic cigarettes (also known as e-cigarettes) was addressed, “As for e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco, I think it is a ridiculous idea that we need to ban something because it is unhealthy for the user alone — by this logic they should also force out the on-campus candy and fast food sales.”
E-cigarettes and chewing tobacco do not harm anyone but the person using the substance. As Abrams pointed out, this sounds an awful lot like fast food and candy. Yet we still have fast food and candy on campus because these items maximize profit to the university unlike tobacco products. Granted, the degree of harm differs between the two categories, but once the precedent of institutional restriction of self-harm is introduced, it is difficult to say when it has gone too far.
A general consensus of students seems to agree: We should have a voice on matters like these. Because if the UC President has the authority to create a radical policy like this without any student consent, what policy is next to come?
Austin Yack is a second-year political science major.