Smoke and Tobacco Free FAQs

Why has SSU adopted a 100% smoke and tobacco-free campus policy? 

  • To respond to the U.S. Surgeon General’s findings that there is no safe level of second hand smoke.
  • To respond to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency findings that second hand smoke is a significant risk to public health and that secondhand smoke and tobacco debris are group A (the most dangerous) carcinogens.
  • To protect the immediate and long term health, safety, and well-being of students, faculty, staff, and visitors, including those campus employees who work outdoors.  
  • To assure equal access for individuals most vulnerable to the effects of second hand smoke exposure such as those with  conditions including asthma and other respiratory conditions, allergies and physiologic sensitivities, cardiovascular vulnerabilities, pregnancy, etc. 
  • To respond to the requests and concerns of a majority of SSU students and employees regarding exposure to second hand smoke and tobacco-related debris on campus. 
  • To reduce tobacco-related pollution, reduce fire risk, and conserve resources spent removing cigarette, tobacco and e-cigarette litter on campus.
  • To reduce exposure of children, animals and waterways to tobacco waste toxins.
  • Additionally the policy is likely to help:
    • prepare students for increasingly prevalent smoke-free learning, working and living environments
    • reduce the likelihood that students will initiate or become habituated to tobacco use
    • support those tobacco users who wish to quit or decrease their use
    • support those who have quit using tobacco

What is SSU’s smoke and tobacco-free policy and when does it take effect?
Until July 1, 2015, a transition period allows smoking in parking lots only. Effective July 1, 2015, smoking is prohibited on all University property, (including property not adjacent to the main campus), as well as all facilities, grounds, parking lots, private vehicles on University grounds, University-owned or rented vehicles and structures owned or leased by the University. All University employees, students, visitors and vendors are expected to adhere to the smoke and tobacco-free policy while on SSU property.

Does the smoke-free policy apply to tailgate gatherings and events at outdoor fields?
Yes. All events that take place on SSU-owned property, including tailgate gatherings and outdoor events still fall into the smoke and tobacco-free zones.

Can I use tobacco in my own vehicle within the smoke-free zones?
Not after July 1, 2015. After that date, a vehicle parked on the SSU campus or SSU property is within the boundaries of the smoke and tobacco free zone. A vehicle must therefore be moved to off-campus property if an individual wishes to smoke within the vehicle.

Will the policy remain in effect on weekends?
Yes, the policy is in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

What products are prohibited?
Smoking is defined as inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying a lighted cigarette, cigar, pipe, or other lighted smoking product. This includes but not limited to e-cigarettes, bidis, clove cigarettes and hookahs. The use of smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco and snuff are also prohibited.

Why are e-cigarettes prohibited?  
The California Department of Public Health recently released the State Health Officer's Report on E-Cigarettes: A Community Health Threat at http://go.etr.org/e/48112/tate20Health-e-cig20report-pdf/dwqyq/33706773. This report provides current scientific information about the potential harms of e-cigarette use as well as the production of toxins in second had aerosols, and lends credence to including e-cigarettes in policy restrictions for campuses, workplaces, and other settings. E-cigarettes are unregulated and not subject to official inspection. Many brands have been found to contain toxins and contaminants in addition to nicotine, some of which are essential to the function of the device, and some the result of unregulated off-shore manufacture. E-cigarettes have not been found to be an effective smoking and tobacco cessation tool and have not been approved for this purpose. 

Why not have designated smoking areas instead? 
A recent US Surgeon General’s report confirmed the immediate (and long term) harmful respiratory and cardiovascular effects of even brief low level exposure to second hand smoke. Studies at Stanford University compared the concentration of second hand smoke toxins in outdoor designated smoking areas with indoor smoking settings and found them to be similar, in and near designated smoking areas in use by many individuals, with the potential for  secondhand smoke contamination well beyond designated areas. Some campuses have moved from designated smoking areas to smoke free after finding that designated areas tended to undermine campus harmony, voluntary compliance and environmental goals by facilitating smoking both in and outside these areas, spurring compliants from those nearest to and in route to designated areas, and leading to large concentrations of ground and tobacco waste.

What will be done with the ashtrays around campus?
Ashtrays have been removed from campus because they are a receptacle for a product that will no longer be used on SSU property.

What about people who smoke to handle stress?
Research shows that while nicotine can create an immediate sense of relaxation, that feeling is temporary and soon gives way to nicotine withdrawal symptoms (including nervousness and anxiety) and increased cravings for another cigarette. Nicotine itself doesn’t reduce stress and anxiety or deal with the underlying causes. See http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/mental-health-a-z/s/smoking/

Feelings of stress and anxiety related to nicotine withdrawal can make reducing or ending nicotine dependence difficult. Those facing these challenges may wish to consult a physician or pharmacist in conjunction with campus smoking limitations or their quit process and consider the temporary use of non-prescription FDA approved nicotine replacement therapy or physician prescribed medications, all of which are best used in conjunction with behavioral quit assistance programs.

Mental health professional and advocacy organizations such as the American Psychological Association at http://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/06/smoking.aspx, have embraced the importance of assisting those with mental health symptoms to reduce, and ideally to quit tobacco use. Psychiatric hospitals are increasingly adopting smoke free policies, and studies have shown no adverse events, and many positive outcomes as a result of these changes. See http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/ps.2010.61.9.899.

Isn’t this policy a violation of my civil and constitutional rights?
There is no “right to smoke” under state or federal law. SSU has the authority to govern the use of University property and regulate its use. Smoking in public places exposes others to secondhand smoke, which has been shown to harmful even in those that do not smoke. Legal protections therefore focus on accommodating  those at risk for negative health consquences from second hand smoke and other environmental tobacco residue exposure including children, pregnant women and those with respiratory, cardiovascular and similar conditions. See http://publichealthlawcenter.org/sites/default/files/resources/tclc-syn-disabilities-2004.pdf. Banning smoking and tobacco use at SSU protects everyone from exposure to second hand smoke and tobacco related environmental hazards while they are on campus. If someone wishes to smoke, they may do so off SSU property

Are there policy exceptions?
No.

How is this policy different from the previous policy about smoking and tobacco use?

Previously, those who wished to use tobacco products at SSU could do so outdoors, at least 20 feet away from the outer most perimeter of campus buildings, breezeway, covered walkway and outdoor eating and gathering areas. This new policy further supports health and wellness at SSU by completely prohibiting smoking and tobacco use on all SSU property.

How was the policy change communicated to faculty, staff and students?
Beginning with the September 2011 SSU Associated Students Resolution calling for a smoke free central campus, the potential for a policy revision with stringent restrictions has been part of the smoking policy notification sections in the SSU Schedule of Classes and SSU catalog, and has been included in student orientation sessions, student newspaper articles, etc. Emails to SSU students, faculty and staff were distributed prior to the start of the transition period (Feb. 1-June 30, 2015) to the 100% smoke and tobacco free policy began. Efforts to inform and support members of the campus community during this transition and beyond will continue.

Employees and students were also informed though numerous “meet and confer” sessions with the employee unions, discussions and outreach to student groups, and the proposed revisions were stewarded through the shared governance process to ensure feedback was received and considered from all campus community stakeholders.  The university’s employee newsletter, Workplace, carried several articles about the new policy as did the student newspaper, the STAR. Additionally, press releases were issued by the University’s public information office and the story was carried in the local daily newspaper, the Press Democrat, as well as on NPR. Information has been placed on University websites and signs have been placed throughout campus.

How will campus visitors know that SSU is a smoke and tobacco-free institution?
Signage about our smoke-free campus has been placed throughout the SSU campus. The smoking policy at http://www.sonoma.edu/uaffairs/policies/smokingandtobaccofreepolicy.htm as well as this informational website are available to visitors, vendors and the campus community. A link to Sonoma State’s policy will be placed on other appropriate websites. Others, such as vendors, will be notified as appropriate.

Have other universities implemented a smoke-free campus?
Yes. There are more than 1,500 colleges and universities nationwide including at least 60 in California that have enacted 100% smoke-free and/or tobacco-free campus policies. Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana and Oklahoma prohibit smoking on public college campuses statewide.  Santa Rosa Junior College has been smoke free since 2005. University of California campuses are smoke and tobacco free, and many other CSU campuses either are or are preparing to become tobacco free campuses as well.

How will this change make a positive difference at SSU?
SSU is committed to protecting the health and safety of University employees, students and visitors on the SSU main campus and ancillary campuses and properties. Creating a smoke-free environment allows for a healthy, comfortable and productive living, learning and working environment.

Will the University require people to quit using tobacco products?
No. SSU acknowledges that the use of tobacco products is a personal choice. However, the use of tobacco does not fit with the culture of health and wellness SSU encourages. Though some people may choose to smoke or use recreational tobacco products off campus, not permitting tobacco use on University property will better protect against exposure to second hand smoke and related environmental toxins as well as provide a supportive environment for those who are trying to quit.

What resources are available to help those who want to quit smoking?
A smoker who wishes to quit can increase his/her chances of success by using available resources listed on SSU’s smoking information site on this site. The services of the Student Health Center and Counseling and Psychological Services are available to regularly enrolled SSU students.

How will property owners adjacent to the SSU campuses be affected by the policy? Is there a plan to handle employees who just travel to the nearest off-campus sidewalk or building to smoke?
Properties adjacent to SSU set their own policies regarding smoking. We ask SSU employees, students and visitors to be courteous when going off campus to smoke by disposing of tobacco products and packaging in appropriate receptacles and being aware of others nearby who may not wish to be exposed to second hand smoke.

How will the policy be enforced and by whom?
SSU community members are asked to help create a smoke-free environment using community enforcement. Community enforcement relies on individuals to educate one another about the smoke-free policy at SSU. Campus police will help inform but currently are not responsible for citing individuals for violating this policy.

What are the consequences for people who violate the smoke-free policy?
SSU is not planning to issue tickets for violations on campus, but offenses will be addressed similar to violations of any other campus policy. Employees with questions should contact Human Resource at hr@sonoma.edu. Students with questions should contact Student Affairs at sarah.casavan@sonoma.edu or the Student Health Center at health.center@sonoma.edu. Visitors and community members may contact University Affairs at university.affairs@sonoma.edu.

Can I use the money I put aside in my flexible spending account to pay for costs related to smoking cessation aids and counseling that are not covered by insurance?
Yes.  Employees may set money aside in their flexible spending accounts which can be used for out-of-pocket expenses toward smoking cessation including counseling with a doctor's prescription. Free services and counseling are also available through the University’s Employee Assistance Program http://www.sonoma.edu/hr/payroll/benefits/eap.html

Who should I contact for questions and concerns?
Employees with questions should contact Human Resource at hr@sonoma.edu.  Students with questions should contact Student Affairs at sarah.casavan@sonoma.edu or the Student Health Center at health.center@sonoma.edu. Visitors and community members University Affairs at university.affairs@sonoma.edu.