Breathe easy: smoke-free USD update

Elisabeth Smith | Assistant News Editor

Cigarettes, chew, and vapes. Tobacco products are everywhere, and are still being used by adults young and old despite the commonly known risks. But at the University of San Diego, students and staff are trying to kick this bad habit.

In August 2015, USD became a smoke-free campus, restricting use of all tobacco products on school property. Despite having seven months to adjust to the new rule, some students are still smoking on campus in hotspots by Tecolote Canyon and the Linda Vista stairs.

The Breathe Easy Campaign was enacted to provide a healthy, comfortable, and productive environment for USD employees, students, and guests. By banning tobacco products, students and staff no longer have to walk through second-hand smoke.


According to the 2014 National College Health Assessment, about one percent of USD students smoke cigarettes daily, and nine percent of students reported any use within the past 30 days.

Smoking Cessation Coordinator Jacqueline Gamboa, Psy. D., works in the center for Health and Wellness Promotion. Gamboa, a clinical psychologist, assists students and staff who want to quit smoking or using tobacco products.

“We’re not saying people have to quit,” Gamboa said. “It’s just a bummer that students ignore the policy and continue to smoke on campus.”

Gamboa noted that aside from the personal health risks to students who smoke, there are environmental hazards. Litter from cigarette butts dirty the campus, and are a fire hazard around the dry canyon grass.

“We provide many resources for students to quit smoking if they come to us,” Gamboa said. “There is free nicotine gum available at the health center, and if students come visit me and start cutting down, they can quit.”

Gamboa wants students and faculty to feel empowered to approach people smoking on campus and ask them to stop.

“We have the Breathe Easy Ambassador Program where we offer education that empowers everyone to say something,” Gamboa said.

The ambassador program holds tabling events in front of the University Center, offering information to community members. USD nursing student Kalista Caudana signed up to be an ambassador after receiving an email and wanting to help the campus become smoke free.

“Through being an ambassador I learned how hard it is for people to quit smoking and the courage it takes to approach a smoker and offer help,” Caudana said. “Our school offers a lot of support to people who smoke and want to quit, which is excellent.”

Caudana shares that the campus is responding well to the campaign. She has only approached a couple of students and found that there are a few hot spots around campus where students continue to smoke.

“Building our community enforcement is a major part of the campaign,” Gamboa said. “During our tabling events, the majority of people who come up to us give positive feedback.”

The setback doesn’t mean that the campaign isn’t working. Assistant director of the Center for Health and Wellness Promotion, Stephanie Lynch, expressed that there is a definite difference with students smoking around campus.

“We were so tired of walking through clouds of smoke around campus [before the campaign],” Lynch said. “Now that there are less hot spots, you can walk through and breathe clean air.”

The Smoking and Tobacco free page on the USD website states that secondhand smoke can increase risk of illness. Secondhand smoke appears to be especially dangerous to groups including the elderly, children and individuals with allergies, asthma, respiratory disease, or cardiovascular disease.

According to the Assistant Dean of Students, Marie Minnick, there are no immediate consequences for people smoking on campus. If a person is smoking, anyone has the right to ask them to put out the cigarette and remind them of the policy.

Aside from asking the smoker to stop, anyone can complain to student affairs about someone who is violating the policy. If there are frequent violators, they can be brought through the appropriate accountability body, such as human resources for staff and student conduct for students.

Minnick said that there could be more severe punishments if a student blatantly violates the policy, but that has not been a problem so far. Overall in Minnick’s experience, if students come through the accountability process, normally through a residence hall violation, they cease smoking on campus.

In a previous interview with the USD Vista, senior Khalid Assalloum saod he has been smoking for about four years. Assalloum was frustrated by the campuswide ban.

“I feel like since we’re paying so much [to attend USD] they should consider that some of us smoke,” Assalloum said. “I think it’s a good thing to try to contain the smoking on campus, but I feel banning it entirely isn’t the solution.”

Laboratory Manager Keith Fink has witnessed students smoking around the Shiley Center for Science and Technology. Fink, along with several colleagues from Shiley, find students smoking on the east side of the building, either on the stairs, near the bottom of the stairs in and around the alcove, or just off the side of the slope by the storm drain outlet.

“Those students who are not abiding by the new regulations seem to be mocking them by not only continuing to smoke, but by putting their cigarettes out, and then depositing their butts, on and around the stickers and lawn signs announcing the policy,” Fink said.

Fink noticed that there has been a significant increase in the number of cigarette butts discarded in the areas behind Shiley since the new policy was adopted. He expressed that since the policy is not strictly enforced, it creates an atmosphere where it is difficult to have policies taken seriously.

“The installation of overhead cameras, with large signs indicating their presence, in areas where large accumulations of cigarette butts are occurring, may be persuasive deterrents,” Fink said. “Activity recorded in these areas could also be perused for repeat offenders to be sought out.”

In addition to surveillance of the hot spot areas, Fink suggested that Public Safety officers patrol the areas.

“And, whenever a student is found to be in violation, they need to receive counseling, not only relative to smoking cessation, but also about the university’s rules of conduct,” Fink said.

Hopefully the students who still choose to smoke on campus keep their butts away from Tecelote canyon because according to Smokey the Bear, only you can prevent canyon fires.