Nearly every day classes are in session at Cal State Fullerton, puffs of smoke fill the air from multiple students gathered outside the Humanities Building to smoke cigarettes and e-cigarettes.
It’s been a common scene for multiple semesters despite the fact that a smoking ban was implemented on campus nearly two years ago, in August 2013.
Smokers on campus haven’t been given tickets, they haven’t been fined and they haven’t been put on probation for smoking violations.
Rather, Cal State Fullerton has relied on a system of outreach efforts by using organized groups of students to spread information about the ban and about various smoking cessation programs, said Christopher Bugbee, a media relations officer for CSUF.
Programs such as the Fresh Air Advocate program have been in place since the ban began.
The peer enforcement program uses a dedicated group of students who walk the campus, take notes about smoking violations and distribute materials such as gum packets and brochures, Bugbee said.
The university spent roughly $30,000 during the first year of the ban, a number that then fell to $15,000 during the current academic year.
The initial expenditures included startup costs for the program to put up campus signage and provide a web link for students to report instances of smoking violations, John Beisner, director of risk management for the Department of Environmental Health and Safety, said in an email.
From the start of the 2015 until April 8, 11 smoking violations have been reported on the website. More than 70 violations have been reported over the near-two year period the website has been available to students.
Beisner said such methods have proven effective, but declined to elaborate about how.
Daniel Contreras, 20, a music major, is one of many students who smoke outside the Humanities Building. He said he has never been approached by a Fresh Air Advocate.
Contreras isn’t alone. All student smokers interviewed on a single day in the area behind Humanities said they had never been told they couldn’t smoke behind Humanities.
Contreras comes to the back of the Humanities building on a daily basis to enjoy a cigarette and the area can get busy when he’s there; on a regular basis he’ll see anywhere between five and 20 people lighting up, he said.
Kevin Tran, 23, an English major said he finds the smoking ban regulations unclear and thinks the area behind Humanities is an appropriate location to smoke, since it doesn’t appear that anyone enforces the ban there.
“At first I was kind of iffy because I thought it was banned and that they would regulate it or something,” Tran said. “But after a while, smoking by myself, I thought, ‘I don’t think they really care.’”
Tran said he asked other smokers behind Humanities if it was OK to smoke and was assured by students and teachers alike that it was OK and that the ban was not enforced.
Reyes Fidalgo, Ph.D., a Spanish professor and chair of the department of Modern Languages and Literature, said she is not against a ban but opposes the ambivalence of officials when it comes to enforcement.
When the ban was first being proposed by the Academic Senate, Fidalgo stood against it when others said it would be beneficial to students and staff. She said she worried about the funding of the ban and its effectiveness. The ban was ultimately approved unanimously by the Senate.
“My main concern then was I did not see how we could reinforce the ban,” Fidalgo said. “To do that, first of all, you cannot just punish the people; you have to give them programs that make them aware of the dangers of smoking.”
Fidalgo, who said she would like to see a clearer enforcement body in place for the ban, has stood against proposed enforcement alternatives, such as probation for students who are caught smoking, she said.
Fidalgo believes that for the ban to be effective, there needs to be a conversation about what could make it better and follow through to make it happen.
“If we went so far as to put this together, what are we going to do next?” Fidalgo said. “Because to have it only in title, makes no sense.”
Beisner, who took more than a month and a half to answer questions directly after first sending the Daily Titan to Media Relations Director Christopher Bugbee, declined to answer Daily Titan questions about whether there is a need for expansion of programs as well as questions specific to the situation behind Humanities.