Campus begins school-wide tobacco ban

Katie Holmes/Staff

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Members of the UC Berkeley community returning for the spring semester will notice signs across campus informing them of the tobacco-free policy that went into effect Jan.1.

The ban covers all tobacco products — even those that are smokeless — for students, faculty, staff members and visitors within properties controlled by the University of California. Tobacco users affected will have to be aware of the smoke-free areas surrounding the university, including commercial zones such as Telegraph Avenue, Shattuck Avenue and University Avenue, as well as the upcoming smoking ban in multiunit housing, which is slated to go into effect as early as May. There are no designated smoking areas on campus.

The policy takes effect two years after former UC president Mark Yudof initially wrote a letter to the UC chancellors promoting a smoke-free policy across all 10 campuses. The university will join more than 1,100 colleges and universities across the nation that are smoke- and tobacco-free.

“The UC wants to promote a healthy environment,” said UC spokesperson Brooke Converse. “Our most important message is that (tobacco) is not a healthy thing to do.”

UC Berkeley is working with the Tobacco-Free Berkeley Steering Committee to aid in the transition and to provide cessation services for those ready to stop using tobacco. According to Joel Moskowitz, co-chair of the committee and director of the Center for Family and Community Health, the prevailing notion among smoking-ban proponents is that the health of both tobacco users and nonusers should be prioritized above all, promoting an environment where not using tobacco is the norm.

To help facilitate the implementation of this new policy, the UC Office of the President provides resources to the campuses, including fact sheets, materials for administrators and video resources to aid staff in the appropriate ways of discussing the policy and intervene if anyone is in violation.

“Even smokers know it is in their best interest (to stop using tobacco),” Moskowitz said. “Some research I’ve done on workplace smoking laws shows those who want to quit are more likely to if the workplace is smoke-free, and most do want to quit.”

In terms of enforcement, the policy asks for the “consideration and cooperation” of tobacco users and nonusers to raise awareness and adhere to the ban, according to the Tobacco-Free Berkeley website. In extreme cases, individuals will be dealt with in a manner consistent with any other campus policy violation, while violating the city’s smoke-free ordinances may result in a monetary fine after warnings.

After the multiunit housing smoking ban goes into effect, individuals unable to smoke on campus may still do so in certain areas in the city, such as residential sidewalks and single-family homes.

“The intention is not to punish people,” Moskowitz said. “I’d be surprised to see any kind of fines — I think most people will comply with the policy.”