Puff or Pass?

buttOne month down for UCSC’s new smoke- and tobacco-free policy

UC Santa Cruz senior and literature major Thomas VanGilder enjoys a cigarette now and again.

But starting Jan. 1, the school became smoke- and tobacco-free—a change VanGilder believes is out of step with its character.

“I think there’s a hypocrisy in the image that the school is trying to create for itself, like there being the Grateful Dead museum that honors the legacy of Jerry Garcia—who drank and smoked cigarettes until the day day he died—and the ’60s era, and a student movement that began here at UCSC,” VanGilder says. “That was an era that defined pleasure; you had the sexual revolution and the re-imagining of what drugs really are.”

The decision to ban smoking on all UC campuses was issued by UC President Mark Yudof in 2012 and in effect by January 2014 across all 10 campuses, says Saladin Sale, co-chair of the campus Smoke- and Tobacco-Free Policy Implementation Committee.

“The UC, which is widely regarded as a leader in many aspects of education and research, has been a little behind the curve in terms of the smoke- and tobacco-free movement, which has been really big,” he says. “There are over 1,100 universities that are tobacco free already, so we’re kind of catching up with the pack as opposed to breaking ground.”

Sale says that, so far, compliance with the new policy has not been an issue. He says that a few people have had to be warned about the new rule but that citations are not a part of the policy at this time.

“We’re not starting out with enforcement,” he says. “We’re leading with education. Fines and citations down the line will be possible but that’s not the agenda. What we don’t want to do is have smoking police running around looking for violators.

“It’s touchy, because feelings can run high, especially when you’re dealing with addiction,” Sale adds, “but people are sensitive to being respected and not being demonized.”

He adds that UCSC aims to advertise the resources they have available for students who are inclined to quit the habit.

VanGilder says that he has continued to see students smoking cigarettes in plain sight. And some worry that the ban could push smokers into the surrounding woods and meadows. Early last month, an anonymous flier appeared on campus depicting five cute, hand-drawn little animals—a rabbit, a squirrel, a deer, a raccoon and a bird—with tears in their eyes, looking baffled, sitting amongst flowers and a bunch of strewn cigarette butts.

“No Butts,” reads the top of the flier. At the bottom it goes on: “As many of you know, starting Jan. 1, UCSC implemented a campus-wide smoke- and tobacco-free policy. With these new rules in place, there are going to be more butts in between the trees than ever. If you find yourself smoking in the trees or grasslands, please be sure to dispose of your butts in a place where they will not be a threat to our beautiful campus. Littering the forest floors with cigarette butts can cause forest fires and harm our wildlife.”

VanGilder says he himself has walked into the woods to smoke a cigarette but that he is careful. He stubs out the cigarette’s embers, breaks off the butt, puts it in his pocket so he can throw it in the trash later, and then continues on with his day.

“Sure, smoking is bad,” he says. “I get that they’re trying to make students healthier, but it’s still taking away a choice that people can do what they please with their bodies. So that kind of bothers me.”

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