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.”

8 Replies to “The side-effects of PCC’s smoking ban”

  1. It is not alarmist to say that second hand smoke is as great a threat as radiation exposure. More people die each year from second hand smoke than radiation exposure. According to the World Health Organization, “Tobacco use is a major cause of many of the world’s top killer diseases – including cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive lung disease and lung cancer. In total, tobacco use is responsible for the death of about 1 in 10 adults worldwide. Smoking is often the hidden cause of the disease recorded as responsible for death.” Interestingly enough, a radioactive chemical is found in cigarette smoke and probably more potent than the radiation you experience eating a banana in case that argument comes up next. In case anyone is wondering there is a full list of the very real and toxic chemicals found in cigarettes at the Center for Disease Control’s website. The radioactive chemical in cigarettes: Polonium 210.
    ( ).

    Second-hand and third-hand smoke is beyond annoying: it is toxic. As human beings, we accept that far too many things are out of our reach. Frankly, smoking does not belong on a list of things we cannot give up, and walking to find a trash bin is not an unreasonable demand. Let us not distract from the progress that has been made to help our communities reduce addiction and acceptance of cigarettes since their peak usage in the US. The real kicker here is that when you throw something away it does not just magically disappear or get sent to space (at least not yet anyway). So isn’t the more important question not how soon can we get a trash can, but what happens when you throw a toxic chemical in the trash or on the ground?

    The question of whether or not there are trash cans at every place where smoking happens is a distraction from yet another more interesting question: why would any number of people think that it is okay to throw a cigarette butt on the ground or trash, or use a toxic product so nonchalantly to begin with? All people should consider the ethical choices we make related to smoking. We must consider that a cigarette contains so many toxic chemicals (thousands) and they are not easy to get rid of. The same must be held true of cigarette butts. The odor is not just a nuisance, it profoundly and irreversibly toxic. A person smoking and the things around them that come into contact with smoke from a cigarette absorb the toxic chemicals contained in a cigarette. These are the same chemicals that give off that strong odor and unfortunately, for everyone, they are potently cancer-causing, death-inducing, you name it. These real side-effects don’t just harm people who know what they are getting themselves into either. Do a search on the internet for third hand smoke and its most susceptible candidates: babies. If people are unaware let us consider what it takes to help promote awareness and advance our society beyond the acceptance of a product which is so profoundly detrimental to the health and well being of people and the environment we live in. If people are aware but choose to to throw a toxic cigarette butt on the floor because there is not a special receptacle at arms length, let’s not reinforce the notion that there should be. We need to understand that regardless of what we do with a cigarette butt, there is no safe place for it. Then maybe we will demand better products that don’t generate toxic trash, that don’t lead to addiction, and aren’t pervasively toxic.

    The reality may be that we should demand these less toxic products by not buying them in the first place. However, if those options are off the table for us, the people who choose to smoke or support a toxic product through inaction, then maybe we should choose to own that cigarette butt. To keep it, not throw it on the ground or send it to a landfill where those same toxic chemicals we discussed can leach into ground. Because that ground that becomes contaminated might actually be the same ground under your home or my home. Let us act to transcend the idea of disposability, and maybe do more to refuse cigarettes altogether.

    1. Thank you, Mr. Ashton for showing the number of toxic chemicals found in second hand smoke. Now look up the toxic chemicals found in gasoline, carpets, wine, beer, coffee, bus exhaust, and salad from Chipoltle, six of which come with warnings about their toxicity to you and pregnant women. Am I to assume that these warnings stand equal to the those of second hand smoke? How am I too know which warning is the more serious? Help me rank them based on something besides your moral preferences.

      Finally, you still haven’t offered any evidence that second hand smoke in an outdoor environment poses any significant risks other than being annoying. And certainly, I don’t read anywhere in your post on the danger to others of vaporing.

      Dr. Michael Siegel, Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at Boston University School of Public Health, challenges the evidence for, what he believes to be, the overstated claims by the CDC for secondhand smoke in an outdoor environment. Here is the CDC: “breathing drifting tobacco smoke for as little as 30 minutes (less than the time one might be exposed outdoors on a beach, sitting on a park bench, listening to a concert in a park, etc.) can raise a nonsmoker’s risk of suffering a fatal heart attack to that of a smoker.”

      Siegel, no fan of the tobacco industry, states emphatically that no evidence exists for this claim, and anti-smoking groups are undermining their cause by this exaggeration.

      I have to assume that you will not give up any of your rights, no matter how annoying or dangerous or immoral to others they may be, but instead you want to take away other people’s rights based on what you deem to be good or bad. Right now, I smell only the nasty smoke of second-hand fascism.

  2. The boards decision to make the campus a “non-smoking” campus should be applauded. Unfortunately, those who smoke leave cigarette butts all over the streets surrounding PCC. But what about the areas on campus where students continue to smoke? When is the last time you saw one of our overpaid security guards enforce this policy, let alone seen one on the campus? The smoking policy was put in place to be “strictly enforced” and littering laws are in place to be enforced. Lets get our lazy security guards out there to start doing their jobs and enforce the policy and littering laws. If they can’t enforce them, then they should be the ones to go out and pick up the butts. Do your job campus security! Keep PCC clean.

  3. The unintended consequences of PCC’s smoking ban–littered sidewalks, students coming to class late after a smoking break and the impossibility of preventing smokers from finding secret areas on campus to smoke– were predicted when the proposal went into effect. But who wanted to listen to these points when second hand smoke took the stage as the greatest threat to human health next to radiation exposure.

    First, the ban on smoking stems from misinformed moralists who believe, without evidence, that second hand smoke in an outdoor environment creates harm; there is simply no credible evidence for this claim. Second, the ban on electronic cigs, which have NO harmful effects on anyone except the smoker, proves that the ban on smoking stems from some moral instinct rather than good science.

    If everything that people found offensive was argued as a health issue, then schools should cite students who break wind in class or in crowded areas: there is certainly good evidence that methane is both harmful to one’s health and a fire hazard.

    But students, friends, and family coughing and gagging in a cloud of passed gas makes for great comedy while passing through a cloud of cigarette smoke is exaggerated into some crime against humanity. PCC was once called a high school with ashtrays; now it’s just a high school–same rules and same nanny-like teachers.

    1. Yes, I completely agree with you.

      The no smoking ban has good intentions, but it is a pathetic attempt to appease the “good-feelings” camp. The idea of no smoking on our campus is a nice one, I myself would prefer not to smell cigarettes as I walk around the campus. However, I understand human nature (as an occasional addict of cigarettes) and laughed at the notion that PCC would ever be “smoke free”.

      First off, the regulations for cigarettes should not encompass e-cigarettes. There is an overwhelming amount of data that suggests that E-Cigarettes pose very little harm (to a 10th degree less) than cigarettes do, and the 2nd hand “smoke” that comes from vaping is even more negligible. The only fair argument that I would consider for the banning of e-cigarettes is the aesthetic – it may make people uncomfortable to walk around campus with cigarette vapor in their face.

      However, PCC’s 0 tolerance for smoking is counterintuitive. Smokers and vapers have migrated to the front and sides of the school, thereby representing the school to all civilians who pass on the street. Do you get the irony? In an effort to look good on paper and for the health of our students, PCC administration has very cleverly convinced the smokers to conduct all of their activity on the sidewalks. Therefore, anyone passing through on Colorado blvd will see myriads of smokers lined up – Asian, Black, White, and Mexican ethnic groups all alike – puffing and huffing on their contraptions or analogs. It’s pretty funny when I think about it.

      PCC can do nothing about these students. They should honestly have smoking areas and reinforce the rules on all other areas.

  4. Boo hoo hoo. I am a smoker but I own that it is a drug addiction, incredibly unhealthy and smelly and offensive to most people. We like to do it nevetheless but that’s our decision, but it helps even us to keep it shunned and annoying to do. I never smoke inside of anywhere ever or around non-smokers unless I know they don’t mind. An isolated covered area or two to control the trash maybe, but tickets and fines for smoking elsewhere, tobacco needs to be kicked to the curb as a school policy.

  5. The enlightened approach would be to allow vaping in designated areas on the campus as an incentive to try ecigs for convenience. A lot of smokers would do that and many of them might switch. Besides being healthier they would save a lot of money which would make it easier to pay the cost of continuing their education. A carton a week cost me $3,000 a year. Now I mix eliquid at home. The costs of materials for a year supply is less than $50. The difference is quit a bit of money for most students or most anybody.

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