Tuesday, April 25

Kristina Iliopoulos: UCLA must re-evaluate smoking policies with passage of Prop 64


(Chris Campbell/Daily Bruin senior staff)

(Chris Campbell/Daily Bruin senior staff)


The entire country is talking about the historic moment that happened on Nov. 8. It’s quickly dividing California in two: one side very easily saw this coming and the other is outraged by the result, taking to social media to protest the outcome. That’s right: Proposition 64.

Proposition 64, which legalized recreational use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21, is seen by some as long overdue. The new law considers marijuana on the same footing as alcohol: no public use, businesses need a license for it to be present or sold and no dispensaries around schools or youth groups.

UCLA is following suit and clumping recreational marijuana use in with its no smoking or public alcohol use policy, even though that rule is usually violated, especially in regards to smoking. And despite Proposition 64, use and possession of marijuana is still illegal under federal law, so the University of California system, which receives federal funding, can’t condone its use on its campuses or any affiliated events.

The UC-wide smoking/tobacco ban policy dictated that by 2014 all UC campuses would be smoke and/or tobacco-free. Each UC campus was responsible for implementing its own policies, and UCLA implemented its own in 2013.

However, the official policy states that enforcement “should be primarily educational with an emphasis on cessation resources.” They want to dissuade people from smoking, but this is easier to enforce on the Hill, where students have to sign a contract agreeing not to possess or consume tobacco or marijuana. But the punishment mainly consists of a brief lecture on the dangers of smoking – no doubt a news flash to smokers everywhere.

[Related: Graphic: Proposition 64 would legalize marijuana]

According to media relations, smoking on campus could potentially lead to dismissal from UCLA, but that seems like an empty threat. The current no-smoking policy on campus is very poorly enforced, often with nothing more than looks of disapproval.

UCLA’s lack of policy updates after the proposition passed assumes legal marijuana won’t have a significant change to the daily life on campus. But as dispensaries make their way to Westwood and surrounding areas in January, it reignites the question of UCLA’s poorly enforced campus smoking ban. Students will have increased accessibility, after all. Instead of having a policy with no enforcement, UCLA should try to contain its use by introducing isolated areas designated for tobacco smokers.

Enforcement is supposed to include a fine, education on smoking or dismissal, but these things just aren’t happening on the scale they should be. With marijuana becoming more readily available, people aren’t going to be smoking any less. And while it’s still illegal to partake in marijuana in public spaces, it’s still likely to happen with the lax rules currently in place. Instead of trying to poorly enforce a zero-tolerance no-smoking policy, UCLA should realistically update its policies on smoking to ensure a safe environment.

Since it’s virtually impossible to completely ban smoking, even with enforcement, UCLA should instead try to regulate and confine its use. The policy is ambitious in its goals to provide a 100 percent tobacco-free campus, but useless without enforcement. Instead, UCLA should introduce a small designated smoking area on or around campus officially aimed for tobacco use. This area, ideally near the edges of campus, would serve to isolate those who choose to smoke from those who do not want to be around it, and it would be more easily regulated than having smokers dispersed throughout campus.

It’s hardly a new idea. Designated smoking areas are common in public places such as airports, museums and parks. According to a survey conducted on La Salle University by the New York Journal of Student Affairs, designated smoking areas indeed limit secondhand smoke exposure – better addressing the health goals of UCLA’s smoking ban than the ban does itself.

[Related: UCLA community reacts to new law aimed at stubbing out underage smoking]

Although the smoking ban may seem to dissuade students from bringing or using substances onto campus, it is clearly is not satisfying its objective of a 100 percent smoke-free environment. If you’re a cigarette smoker, you’re likely going to have a pack with you, and a policy that you’ve never been punished under is not going to deter you from taking your regular smoking break.

UCLA should either update its policies regarding smoking to reflect the reality of campus, or it should actually enforce the policies it chooses to implement. Either way, what it’s doing now isn’t working – smoking on campus will only become more prevalent with the passage of Proposition 64.

If UCLA doesn’t update its rules as the times develop, the consequences are clear: It’s ganja have a bud time.

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  • peepsqueek

    Marijuana for medical use and social ritual should be a separate issue. Cigarettes should be outlawed completely as long as the majority of people dying of lung cancer and other smoking related diseases cannot afford the cost of this long process of dying and pass this cost on to my family through my tax dollars and higher insurance premiums. One day in intensive care costs more than all the tobacco taxes that that person has paid in his lifetime, and consumes much need hospital space, leaving less resources for those with non-self-inflicted diseases and injuries. This is my opinion- where am I wrong?

    We live in a Country that eats too much, drinks too much, and smokes too much, and then we complain about the overcrowded healthcare system and high insurance rates. The issue of self-inflicted diseases, that effects all of us in some manner, never comes up in the political debates.

  • Tobacco Free Campus

    As the chair of UCLA’s tobacco free task force, I appreciate the sentiments of the article. As noted, the University policy regarding marijuana despite the passage of Proposition 64 is the same. Use, possession, and distribution of marijuana is prohibited on campus. The official guidance is here:

    http://www.ucop.edu/marijuana-and-drug-policy/

    Similarly, the tobacco free policy is a systemwide policy that UCLA will not be able to amend to create designated smoking areas on campus. Designated smoking areas near the edge of campus are no different than having smokers actually go off campus. Tobacco-free policy violations are code of conduct violations, and if reported to the supervisor or the Dean of Students can lead to a maximum penalty of dismissal.

    That said, the goal of the tobacco-free policy is not to be punitive. We recognize that individuals who are addicted to nicotine need a lot of encouragement to comply with the policy and ideally quit. The Great American Smoke Out is tomorrow November 17th, I would encourage everyone to take the opportunity to reach out to smokers and to visit the student groups on Bruin Walk who are highlighting the Great American Smoke Out.

    As the article highlights the election result, it is also important to note that the passage of Proposition 56 will increase the price of cigarettes by $2 per pack next April. A pack a day smoker can save over $2700 a year by quitting, in addition to subsequent health benefits. The UCLA tobacco free task force is also working with the UC Office of the President and other campuses on additional approaches to encourage full compliance with the tobacco free policy. You can reach the task force at tobaccofree@ucla.edu, uclatobaccofree or uclabreathewell on social media, or at our website at http://uclatobaccofree.ucla.edu and http://healthy.ucla.edu/pod/breathe_well

    Michael Ong, Chair, UCLA Tobacco-Free Task Force