College district may ban smoking on campus

The Coast Community College District is seeking feedback from students and faculty at its three campuses before considering a districtwide smoking ban.

The proposed ban, which the board plans to vote on in the spring, would affect Coast's three colleges — Orange Coast in Costa Mesa, Golden West in Huntington Beach, and Coastline, which has campuses in several locations, including Newport Beach and Fountain Valley.

Currently, OCC and Coastline prohibit smoking within 20 feet of a building entrance or window. In 2007, Golden West banned smoking in all areas of campus except parking lots, said Andreea Serban, vice chancellor of educational services and technology.

The district's drafted smoking policy would ban tobacco entirely, including e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco, from all district sites.

The district's current policy came under scrutiny from trustees in August when they began reviewing board procedures after receiving a warning from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC). The organization told the board to revise outdated policies, among other issues, or risk losing accreditation.

Accreditation is a stamp of educational quality that ensures students can transition to four-year universities.

While district staff has drafted a new smoking policy, trustees vowed to hold off on implementing any ban until they've heard from students.

"We shouldn't do anything without the students saying what they want," Trustee David Grant said at the board's meeting Wednesday night. "It's really their call because they're the ones on campus."

Serban agreed that the board should hold off on making decisions, especially until they've decided how to enforce the ban if it's approved.

"Unless you want to become a police state and start fining people, you can't enforce it," she said. "What's the value of implementing a board policy when it's not enforceable?"

Grant said he doesn't think enforcement will be too much of an issue.

"My own sense of it is that if you put up signs that Orange Coast is a no-smoking campus, I think most people would abide by it," he said.

However, Tristen Pak, a 19-year-old student at OCC Thursday, said students already don't abide by the current smoking rules on campus.

"It drives me nuts," he said. "People smoke by buildings or will sit down next to you and smoke. I've covered my mouth with my jacket and blown the smoke away so they get the idea."

Coast isn't the first community college district in Orange County to consider a tobacco ban.

Santa Ana College, Orange's Santiago Canyon College and Fullerton College have all recently placed some type of smoking restriction on their campuses. The academic senate at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo also recently approved a draft resolution that proposes prohibiting tobacco products on campus.

Greer Gregory, a 23-year-old student at OCC, doesn't like the idea of having to wait until he leaves campus to be able to light up.

"That would get me really riled up," he said. "I would be very agitated most of the time."

Gregory said he understands the dangers of second-hand smoke and is respectful of other students who don't want to be exposed to it. Still, he said, the district should not mandate a comprehensive ban.

"At the end of the day, it's up to us what we want to do," he said.

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