Pierce kicks smoking students beyond the curb

The mission of the LA Pierce College Work Environment Committee (WEC) is to deliver a clean, safe campus for people to work and learn and it seems the mission of campus smokers to muck it up.

 

For years Pierce coddled smokers with picnic tables, shelters and umbrellas just to have them go missing or disused by the very constituency they were designed to attract. But with the school’s new policy, smokers are shoved out of sight and smell to the dregs of only two campus parking lots.

 

Campus smokers must now watch healthier people play tennis in parking lot 1 or pick a piece of chain link fence along the wash running behind parking lot 7 in order to pollute their bodies and environment.

 

The bite of the law has been on the books since October 2011 when AB 795 was chaptered amending the Government Code. It gives Calif. schools the right to legally enforce smoke-free campus by-laws and punish recidivist campus smokers with fines up to $100 along with possible disciplinary action.

 

Records illustrate Pierce administrators have been asking nicely since 2008 for cooperation, but alas, the vile environmental abuse continues with littering of tar-soaked cigarette butts, crushed cellophane exoskeletons, impotent lighters and stinking puffs of pretty death silently seeping through corridors and classrooms victimizing non-smokers.

 

Why it has taken Pierce administrators so long to clear the air on campus seems a mystery. The will to take on smokers exists on paper with minutes of meetings, motions, tighter polices and colorful signage.

 

Though, WEC records do show that recent enforcement of smoking bylaws and protection of the health of non-smokers on campus was delayed by one semester because of an operations issue and that the lack of funds for use on the campus smoking policy reduced the fix to literal handiwork.

 

One may read reports commissioned by the National Institutes of Health or the Center for Disease Control, ad infinitum, about how smoking , including second hand smoke, reduces performance in any number of areas of the body used during college years. There is also a chance of second hand smoke lawsuits by faculty and staff. So, Pierce is not really the villain here, it’s the smokers.

 

One would think that red cross-sectioned circles would abound on campus with the amount of money settled upon in 1998 by the tobacco industry – or that there would at least be enough money to fix the tickets that caused the enforcement delay.

 

Calif. is one of 46 state benefactors of a massive 1998 tobacco industry settlement supposedly earmarked for smoking cessation programs mostly in youth. Payments in 2012 to LA County totaled more than $87 million and exceed $1.3 billion since 1999.

 

Schools should have a lot more money on hand to establish successful tobacco prevention programs which an NIH article states is more effective than smoking cessation and designated smoking area policies. But schools face many challenges from their own government and from the tobacco industry.

 

The tobacco industry fights back consumer atrophy with surreptitiously sponsored bar events and brand merchandise targeted at college-aged coeds as noted in several CDC reports.

 

In fact, two studies referenced by the NIH spread 10 years apart show an increase in college-age smokers by more than 10 percent. Other studies show how susceptible youth can be to peer pressure and alcohol-loosened inhibitions. The cigarette makers know their mark well.

 

Next, let’s talk money. The state of Calif. has pulled in almost $11 billion in annual payments from the tobacco company funded Master Settlement Agreement, but big money is quickly diverted and spent by big government without care or concern for its promised use.

 

Though Pierce should not lose focus on the real prize of smoking prevention, the long-overdue school policy of kicking existing smokers to the curb is much welcome news to the majority on campus who are non-smokers.