UC Berkeley Implements New Rules for Smoking
The 15 feet surrounding every campus building will be officially designated a nonsmoking section beginning Feb. 5.
In a process that has lasted nearly a year, UC Berkeley anti-smoking group Butt Out! and several other supporters have finally succeeded in changing the current rule on campus, which prohibits smoking within five feet of entrances and exits.
In late December, UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Horris Mitchell approved the new 15-foot limit which also instructs smokers to prevent their smoke from entering buildings through windows or other openings.
The city of Berkeley, University Health Services, and the Berkeley Tobacco Prevention Program worked with members of Butt Out! to create the new rule.
Cathy Kodama, a health educator, said the new rule was a much needed adjustment.
"Five feet just isn't enough to protect people walking in and out from smokers outside the building," Kodama said.
She added that while the new rule isn't meant to "marginalize people who smoke," she hopes it will influence campus attitude.
"This rule is not just targeting smokers, but setting a tone that smoking is harmful to people's health, whether smokers or nonsmokers," Kodama said. "There is concern that smoking might be regaining popularity, and we hope that this will promote awareness."
Berkeley is one of the last universities to implement a 15-foot prohibition, and on some campuses the distance is 20 feet.
Not all smokers, however, agree with the new policy.
Felix Kurtz, a UC Berkeley freshman, said he does not plan to abide by the rule.
"I'm still going to smoke there," Kurtz said. "Living in the dorms, I've noticed that no one enforces it, and I seriously doubt that the police, who are too busy arresting bikers, will stop me."
Marcia Brown-Machen, program director for the tobacco prevention program, said the enthusiasm of many different supporters contributed to the new policy's success.
"The effort was made up of all different people on campus working in tobacco prevention," Brown-Machen said. "There is more and more evidence about the dangers of outdoor tobacco smoke, and it added fuel to what people have been wanting to do for a long time."
Kodama added that the inspiration for the adjustment was not only limited to other people's discomfort.
"One of the concerns that Butt Out! expressed is that there are people with asthma and other illnesses, and for some it is a much more severe issueâ€”just walking through smoke can trigger an attack," she said.
The prevention program pays about $33,000 a year to a coordinator and interns who organize activities on campus relating to tobacco control.
To spread word about the new rule, building coordinators will post signs next to building entrances and exits, as well as move ashtrays away.
But there is no concrete way to enforce the new rule, Brown-Machen said.
"It's one of those things that has to be self-enforcedâ€”others ask others," she said.
Brown-Machen also hopes the signs themselves will be educational.
Kodama said that the implementation of the first five-foot rule caused a "longer process of discussion and analysis, and more concerns." This adjustment was quite a bit smoother, she said.
But she added that University Health Services would still be prepared, should any problems arise.
"We do take calls and concerns from departments about people who aren't complying. We do a lot of problem solving," she said.