Smoking Ban Lacks Enforcement
Smoking ban raises questions about enforcement
September 8, 2004 2:32 AM
The university’s decision this fall to make the campus “smoke free” is causing a good deal of confusion between students and staff. SF State President Robert Corrigan circulated an executive directive on Aug. 1, in which he explained the new policy prohibiting smoking anywhere on campus outside of a handful of designated areas.
Apparently the memo hasn’t traveled too far.
“I haven’t seen any signs,” said Michael Sciono, an SF State sophomore found smoking outside the bookstore Wednesday afternoon. “You’re actually the first person that’s confronted me.”
The school has designated seven smoking areas that students are strongly encouraged to use when the urge to light up strikes. The problem is that no one seems to know where they are.
“Most smokers are polite and don’t want to piss people off,” said Matt Williman, a freshman majoring in Computer Engineering. “What they need to do is put some signs up telling us where to go.”
Although most students seem happy to cooperate, there are some who doubt that the mandate, which essentially is a suggestion carrying no legal weight, will be actively imposed.
“They’re not going to enforce it, they’re just trying to put the fear of God in us,” said senior Allen Ramsey. “I think it’s stupid.”
Although the university is, for now, treating the issue as a voluntary policy, it does have the right and power to back up the smoking ban with disciplinary sanctions. Like countless other CSU mandates such as its sexual harassment, alcohol and skateboard policy, SF State students agree by default to all the rules of the institution by choosing to attend classes. The campus is essentially the private property of the state of California.
“It’s like the CEO of a company setting policy for a private business,” said Sheldon Gen, an assistant professor of public policy at SF State. “Just look at Cal Poly, which is a completely dry campus... it’s not surprising SF State has decided to ban smoking.”
Gen did warn that the policy becomes problematic if it is not well advertised.
As professor Gen alluded to, the CSU system, as well a most campuses across the country, contains countless examples of such lightly enforced rules or mandates.
Humboldt State University has adopted a similar smoking ban this semester and has not, as of yet, seen a need to back it up with any sort of disciplinary action.
“We ask the community to regulate itself whenever possible,” said Humboldt State acting Chief of police Tom Dewey. “If we have the resources available, we will act on each complaint on a case-by-case basis.”
Dewey said that the campus police department receives three or four complaints a week dealing with students smoking too close to dorm or classroom doorways, but has yet to take any formal disciplinary action.
“There’s no fine, they’re just asked to leave,” said Dewey.
The University of Georgia’s smoking ban, unlike CSU’s, is backed by the authority of the Clark County Commission, and allows for fines of up to $500.
Part of the reason for such lax enforcement of this, and many other mandates, may have to do with a lack of need. CSU’s smoking policy was born from a student-led petition collected from eight separate campuses, and its scope has expanded each year with the support of the student body. University officials across the nation have repeatedly documented the active role their students have taken in forming such policies.
This is quite possibly the reason President Corrigan chose to end his memo to faculty and students regarding the smoking ban in the manner he did.
‘The success of this policy will depend on the thoughtfulness, consideration and cooperation of smokers and nonsmokers.’
Because many of the actions regulated by mandates, including the smoking ban, are not illegal, campus police are forced to leave the enforcement of these rules to university officials and concerned students.
“It’s an administrative thing,” said SF State police Corporal Emilio Balistriri. “We can only ask them kindly, just like you.”
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