Non-smoking zone extended to 20 feet

    New state legislation effective Jan. 1 now requires that smokers stay 20 feet away from the doorways, entryways, operable windows and ventilation intake ducts of any public building and facilities. This extends the previous non-smoking zones of five feet to 20 feet at University of California, California State University and community colleges.

    Jennifer Downs
    Guardian

    First proposed by state Assemblyman Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) in February 2003, the policy was approved by former Gov. Gray Davis in September 2003. However, the law does not provide funding for enforcement.

    “”We’re hoping for a more self-enforcing kind of law, and there is no fine associated with it,”” said Joanne Wellman-Benson, a program consultant for the California Department of Health Services. “”But businesses can get signage for all the appropriate areas through our local tobacco control program.””

    The smoking policy applies to all UCSD-owned or leased facilities. According to the university’s smoke-free policy, the only exceptions are for “”covered parking lots”” and “”private space”” as well as the UCSD Medical Center’s private rooms where patients have written permission from physicians to smoke. Some students have expressed frustration regarding the extended zone.

    “”I think it’s unfair for smokers because the smoking restrictions were already tight,”” Thurgood Marshall College sophomore Jaw-Xin Wang said. “”We can’t really smoke in bars anymore, and now, we have to be in the middle of nowhere to smoke.””

    According to Wellman-Benson, the policy was designed to protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke. According to the Department of Health Services, secondhand smoke exposure has been shown to be the cause of 4,700 deaths annually in California.

    “”The changes were made to protect the health of non-smokers and those with health-related problems relating to the inhalation and ingestion of secondhand smoke,”” said Vargas’ legislative analyst Ermelinda Ruiz. “”This bill was introduced to preserve the health of non-smokers, who oftentimes have to walk through a cloud of smoke as they are entering or exiting a public building.””

    With the new law in effect, residential life offices are working on informing students about the changes and other implementation procedures.

    “”We have always complied with state law in regards to local policies for on-campus living,”” Eleanor Roosevelt College Resident Dean Rey Guerrero said. “”We will be updating our policy handbook to reflect the change, as well as having RAs do reminders to their residents regarding the change in the law in upcoming newsletters.””

    Likewise, John Muir College will be informing residents about the extension of smoke-free zones.

    “”We will instruct our residential life staff in the parameters of the new policy, and they will enforce the policy,”” Muir College Resident Dean Pat Danylyshyn-Adams said. “”We will ask our house advisers to inform their residents, particularly the ones who smoke, and then probably implement some length of grace period while the word gets out.””

    According to Thurgood Marshall College Assistant Resident Dean Mitchelle Greenlee, TMC Residential Life has applied the law to each building because of the multiple entrances, staircases and patio ways.

    “”We have not had one single problem with implementing this policy,”” Greenlee said. “”Some students ask where they can smoke, and we have a nice, outdoor, unofficially designated area near the TMC hump where people gather to smoke. Very few people have ever violated the policy.””

    Some students who smoke are not worried about the changes.

    “”It’s not like they’re enforcing it,”” John Muir College junior Humberto Ortega said. “”It doesn’t really matter. People smoking don’t really smoke five or whatever feet away from doorways, but most smokers are courteous enough to walk away from everyone else.””

    Others expressed that the changes could be a difficulty.

    “”It is an inconvenience because I tend to smoke a cigarette right when I leave a building or right before I enter a building,”” Marshall College sophomore Rebecca Chou said. “”Usually 20 feet from a building, I would be standing on the street already. So I really don’t know where I would smoke now.””

    According to Wellman-Benson, there have been mostly positive reactions from the community.

    “”Most of the reactions have been in compliance,”” Wellman-Benson said. “”We have received calls from agencies requesting signage. There are a lot of people not excited but still compliant, and they realize that the measure will protect California.””

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