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Bill Banning Smoking Areas in Public High Schools Passes

Times Staff Writer

Legislation to eliminate student smoking areas on public high school campuses gained final legislative passage Wednesday night and was sent to Gov. George Deukmejian.

The Assembly voted 51 to 22 for the bill, providing 10 more votes than the simple majority required. A spokesman for Deukmejian said that the governor had not yet taken a position on the measure, which passed the Senate on Aug. 14.

Under the bill--which reverses an 8-year-old state policy that seeks to accommodate and control student smokers--pupils found to be possessing tobacco products at school would be subject to suspension or expulsion. Tobacco also would be prohibited at school-sponsored events.

Proponents of the measure said that providing smoking areas on campus makes a mockery of an existing state law making it illegal to sell or give tobacco products to minors.

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“It’s sheer, utter hypocrisy that this bill is trying to correct,” the bill’s author, Assemblyman William J. Filante (R-Greenbrae), said during the floor debate.

Assembly Republican leader Pat Nolan of Glendale said, “We’ve outlawed minors (from) smoking and all this is saying is that (law) will be enforced in public buildings called schools.”

The 1978 law that allows school districts to set up campus smoking areas was adopted mainly to move student smokers from the lavatories and into areas separate from other students.

Filante said when the law was adopted eight years ago, health risks associated with the use of tobacco products, such as cigarettes, were not proven.

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“We didn’t know what we know today. We didn’t know how much tobacco is involved with disease,” he said.

Opponents argued that the decision to offer smoking areas should be left to local school districts.

“It’s taking away one of the few local controls a school board has and leaving them defenseless. This is a bad idea,” Thomas M. Hannigan (D-Fairfield) said.

Hannigan contended that students who smoke simply will move back into the lavatories and “to the back of school buses.”

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“It’s going to shift the problem to some other area of the school grounds,” he said.

About half of California’s 1,096 school districts allow smoking on campus. None of the 49 high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District permit smoking on campus.

The bill was backed by the attorney general’s office, the California State School Board, and more than 30 health and education organizations.


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