Despite the May 2010 smoking ordinance in San Luis Obispo, smoking in public places continues to occur, especially on the Cal Poly campus.
The ordinance bans smoking in all public places throughout the city. Exceptions include private residential property, in hotel rooms designated for smoking, in outdoor areas at bars where no food is served and at existing tobacco retailers.
For those Cal Poly students wondering why they still see people smoking on campus, it’s because they can.
Brigitte Elke, the principal administrative analyst for the city of San Luis Obispo, said the city ordinance does not apply to the Cal Poly campus because it is not under the city’s jurisdiction.
“We cannot go onto the campus and enforce it there, because Cal Poly is on state land, the superior agencies regulate (ordinances) there,” Elke said.
Therefore, students, visitors and employees of the university can light-up their cigarettes while in designated smoking locations on campus.
Chief of University Police Department (UPD) Bill Watton did not know a ban on smoking existed.
“There is no ban that I know of … but we do not regularly enforce smoking regulations,” Watton said.
Technically Watton is right; there is no ban on smoking throughout his main jurisdiction, but other regulations do apply to those who wish to smoke on campus.
“You can’t smoke any place inside a state building, or within 20 feet of an entrance or exit to a building,” Watton said. “There are also maps on the (Cal Poly) website and one of them shows where you can and can’t smoke.”
Students like Carl Anderson, a kinesiology junior, wish the ban applied to campus.
“I feel like if you’re choosing not to smoke, there is no reason why you should have to inhale it on campus,” Anderson said. “I was just in class and someone was smoking outside, and I could smell it through the window of our building.”
Even though smoking is said to be allowed in designated areas only, cigarettes often seem to be lit up all over with relatively no consequences.
“We don’t really enforce smoking regulations unless someone complains to us about someone who is refusing to comply,” Watton said. “But there have been no issues on campus since I’ve been here.”
Watton said before UPD gets involved, it is up to building management to deal with the issues first.
San Luis Obispo has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to smoking legislation — in 1990 it was the first city in the world to ban smoking inside buildings.
“So far there have been no negative reactions,” Elke said. “However, we have actually started to ask the police department to enforce the policy more strictly.”
At this point, the San Luis Obispo Police Department (SLOPD) has done less enforcing via citations and has focused more on educating and warning those that break the ordinance, Elke said.
Although smoking is a personal choice, secondhand smoke may also put people around a smoker at risk. The 2006 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report stated there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
“It absolutely affects everyone around you, so it makes sense that (smoking) shouldn’t be allowed where others are present,” Anderson said.
The World Health Organization estimates that by 2030, tobacco will account for 10 million deaths per year, making it the number one cause of death worldwide.