Smoking Regulations Still Need Enforcement

CHUCK REYES
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Smokers on campus have been disregarding California state law that forbids smoking in front of building entrances, and the campus police have been unsuccessful in enforcing the law. Despite posted warning signs, smokers continue to light up in front of building entrances, doors, and windows.

“The cops don’t give us a hard time,” said Dennis Isaac, 29, who was seen smoking outside the entrance of the San Gabriel building. He said the police never catch him smoking, as long as he stays out of sight, and usually not in front of doors, but sometimes windows.

“It’s not an issue of repeats,” said Police Specialist Nidal Kobaissi of the GCC police department. Kobaissi said the problem is not the same people constantly smoking in prohibited areas, but of certain areas being a hot-spot for many different smokers.

“A lot of the time people don’t know about the [20-foot] rule, so we inform them, and then direct them to where it would be appropriate [to smoke].”

The GCC police department has been on an “informative campaign,” warning offenders but not giving out tickets.

This leniency could be the reason why some smokers, like Isaac, disregard warning signs. Though as of now, the police department maintains that there is not much the police department can do about it.
“The college is in the process of creating a policy for what to do, in what direction to go,” said Kobaissi. Until the college finalizes its policy, Kobaissi said the police department can only continue informing smokers about the rules and asking them to follow it.

The Official California Legislative Information Web site states that “no public employee or member of the public shall smoke any tobacco product inside a public building, or in an outdoor area within 20 feet of a main exit, entrance, or operable window of a public building,” under California State Law, Section 7597.

The placement of garbage cans in front of these entrances, however, creates a convenient ash tray for smokers, as well as a quick means of disposal if the campus police happen to come along.

The college administration and the ASGCC have been deliberating several solutions to GCC’s smoking problem, but as of now they plan to continue enforcing the current regulations. “”We still don’t have any rules we can apply,” said ASGCC Vice President of Organizations Narine Tadevosyan. “There are entrances everywhere, and when the police catch smokers, they [the smokers] just say ‘There wasn’t a [no-smoking] sign,’ so the police can’t really do anything.”

While the policies are finalizing, the priority is to have more warning signs posted because a number of entrances and windows remain unmarked. Despite the current warning signs, however, smokers continue to smoke closer than 20 feet from windows and entrances, and students continue to complain about it.

“I find it offensive,” said Vahik Safarian, 24, a non-smoking student, “I came out of class and got a breath full of cigarette smoke.” Students like Safarian prefer the second solution, which is to ban smoking altogether on campus. “If you’re going to smoke, do it outside of campus,” he said.

Some students are not as concerned with the smoking regulations as the others. When asked about people who smoke cigarettes in front of building entrances and windows, international student Hiro Matsuga, 20, said “I don’t think I care.” Matsuga, a journalism major, is a non-smoker. Matsuga only gets concerned when the smokers get too close. “When they invade my space, I feel crappy,” said Matsuga.

Banning smoking altogether on campus would not work because GCC is a public space. The decision to creating a designated smoking section on campus, however, is still a possibility, but smokers will have none of it. “When you get out of class and have a nicotine fit, you don’t want to walk across campus, you just want to smoke,” said Isaac.

Nicole Nelson, 19, shares his sentiments. “The school’s so big, and there are so many smokers,” she said. “It’ll be too crowded.”

“There are still the options of banning smoking or creating a smoking section, but they’re unlikely,” said Tadevosyan. “When they go to class, people smoke while walking, they smoke while they eat.” If this rule were actually imposed, smokers would be bunched together in the campus’ open areas.

“There’s this joke that Plaza Vaquero will become one big ashtray,” said Tadevosyan.