May 8, 2011 (Sacramento)--Assembly Higher Education Chair Marty Block (D-Lemon Grove) has authored legislation that calls on campuses of the California Community Colleges (CCC), California State University (CSU), and the University of California (UC) to enforce local and system-wide smoking and tobacco laws and ordinances already in place. AB 795 would give these institutions the authority to enforce current policies and fine perpetrators.
The measure was overwhelmingly approved this week by the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee.
“California’s college campuses should be healthy learning environments where students do not have to walk through clouds of smoke in order to get to class. The danger of secondhand smoke is clear, yet campus officials are unable to enforce current smoking and tobacco ordinances meant to promote cleaner and healthier campuses,” said Block. “AB 795 gives colleges and universities the authority and tools to enforce current policies and cite those who violate them. I am proud to author legislation that prioritizes the greater public health and reduces exposure to secondhand smoke for students, faculty and visitors on the campuses of our colleges and universities.”
Existing law prohibits the smoking of tobacco products in an enclosed space of employment and within 20 feet of a main exit, entrance, or operable window of a public building which includes public colleges and universities. The law however does not include any enforcement protocols; it simply states that it does not preempt stronger local policies. Many colleges have indicated they are hesitant to adopt stronger policies because they have no way of enforcing the current policies.
Some colleges have gone further than state law, including the Grossmont-Cuyamaca College District, where smoking on campuses is banned.
By adding enforcement language to the existing policies, colleges will have the authority to cite and collect revenue as a form of enforcement.
Specifically, AB 795 includes the following provisions:
• Gives the California Community Colleges, the California State University and the University of California the authority to set enforcement standards for their local campuses.
• Impose a fine for a first, second, and third offense and for each subsequent offence. The amount of fines is to be determined by the local governing body.
• The civil penalty shall not exceed one hundred dollars ($100).
• If a campus adopts the enforcement and fine measures it shall, and the campuses of University of California may post signs stating their tobacco use policy on campus, as follows:
(1) The locations at which smoking or tobacco use is prohibited on campus.
(2) The locations at which smoking or tobacco use is permitted on campus.
• If a campus adopts the enforcement and fine measure it shall, and a campus of University of California may, inform employees and students of the tobacco use policy and enforcement measures employed on their campus.
Funds raised from citing violators may be allocated for the continued enforcement of existing policies, greater education and promotion of the policies, and for tobacco cessation treatment and other anti-smoking programs.
The Center for Disease Control named smoking as the leading cause of preventable death, disease, and disability in the United States. The U.S. Surgeon General concluded there is no risk free level of exposure to secondhand smoke since it contains more than 50 carcinogens. In fact, a U.S. Surgeon General report found that secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and increases the risk of coronary heart disease by 25 to 30 percent in non-smokers.
AB 795 is sponsored by the American Lung Association in California. It has the support of the American Heart Association, the Student Senate for California Community Colleges, the Health Services Association of California Community Colleges, Associated Students of Santa Rosa Junior College, Peralta Community College District and San Diego Miramar College Student Health Services among others.
AB 795 now goes to the Assembly Higher Education Committee for consideration.
Assemblymember Marty Block represents the cities and communities of Bonita, Chula Vista, Lemon Grove, San Diego and Spring Valley.