Pasadena City College’s campus has been smoke-free for almost two years, yet the smoking areas have shifted to the sidewalks and entrances that border that campus. Although the school is not responsible for these areas, the city does not provide a receptacle for cigarette butts and the smoking groups have created a new obstacle for students and locals.
In 2013, a campus-wide survey including students and faculty showed 61 percent in favor of a smoke-free campus.
“PCC is one of 1,620 college campuses that qualify as 100% smoke-free as of October 2, 2015,” said Liz Williams of Americans for Nonsmokers Rights (ANR).
Throughout the day, smokers congregate near the students’ parking lot on Hill Avenue and the student drop-off zone where hundreds of cigarette butts litter the ground and smokers impede passers-by until they finish.
The smokers feel that the school should provide a bin for their cigarette butts since they have no designated places to smoke on campus or nearby between classes.
“Obviously people are throwing their butts everywhere,” said Kevin Kim, automotive technician student. “I usually throw mine away in the trash can. A bin might help.”
Kim, who stopped smoking once for two years is also aware of PCC’s program to help with smoking cessation but hasn’t chosen to give it another try or utilize the school’s program.
It seems simple to place a bin on the sidewalk for smokers, so why hasn’t it been done?
According to PCC Police Sgt. Bill Abernathie, the sidewalks outside the college are the city’s property.
“Somebody would have to make an issue with the city,” said Abernathie. “Once they’re [smokers] off campus premises, we don’t have any jurisdiction. The sidewalks are actually considered the city.”
For the first month after the smoking ban, which includes electronic cigarettes, campus police only issued warnings to violators. Since the program was implemented, they have issued about 180 citations, according to Abernathie. Students, employees, and visitors who violate the policy will be cited using a tiered fine. The first is $25, second is $50, and third is $75, according to the school’s website.
Statice Wilmore of the Pasadena Public Health Department explained that the city’s policy is that smokers must obey the 20-foot rule. As for a bin on Hill Avenue, Wilmore said she’d have to check with the environmental health division.
“We’ve had one or two complaints [of smokers] as a result of PCC’s policy,” she said.
PCC isn’t alone in dealing with the side effects of a smoke-free policy. Portland Community College experienced the same issues when they also went to a smoke-free campus. To subdue complaints from nearby homeowners, they implemented a “good neighbor zone.”
“Good neighbor zones were formed from the smoking ban. People would go off campus and bother neighbors,” said Doug Schaefer of Portland Community College’s Campus Safety office. “The zones are out of way of foot traffic, each campus has about two to three. We’ve had about two years now and it’s working well, they have ‘butt cans.’”
Williams said that it’s important that colleges work with the city council and health department to discuss potential challenges that negatively impact public areas.
“We encourage schools to have conversations because of the unintended consequences we do encounter from time to time because it’s not thought out from the concept,” said Williams. “We provide language for campuses and guidance to identify the hot spots and transfer the problems.”