Anti-tobacco group looks to speed up the process for a smoke-free campus

Kathleen Pizzo

Since forming in September, the student-led organization Hornets for a Healthy Hive has progressed in its goal of making Sacramento State the first California State University tobacco-free campus.

What was initially a project for a communication studies class, has turned into a large campaign to protect student health, and has attracted the attention of more than 15 publications including three major Sacramento news outlets: KCRA 3, Fox 40 and News 10.

After the Campus Policy Tobacco Task Force, formed by President Alexander Gonzalez, reviewed the current smoking policy and sent its recommendation for changes over summer, very little action was taken to improve the policy. 

As a result, students who enrolled in the communication studies course decided to take action by creating the Hornets for a Healthy Hive as an attempt to convince Gonzalez to sign a 100 percent tobacco-free policy into effect by Dec. 4.

Kerry Dorado, 22-year-old public relations major and media relations representative for Hornets for a Healthy Hive, said during the organization’s first town hall meeting Nov 6., many members of the community attended to voice their opinions.

“We’ve heard both sides of the argument from smokers,” Dorado said. “We’ve heard smokers say they want a change in policy so they can stop smoking. We’ve also heard feedback from those against the change in policy, who have their different reasons.”

Business finance major Tony Le, 28, said other students on campus should not be forced to inherit his second-hand smoke.

“I would respect the policy,” Le said. “Honestly, as a smoker I prefer not to smoke when I’m around people. I always try to find a spot where there is no one around me.”

Sociology professor Kevin Wehr said he signed the petition to create a tobacco-free campus because of his concern of campus health. Wehr said smokers may argue against the restrictions, because they feel they are not being harmful to those around them

“I imagine there’s a diversity of opinions,” Wehr said. “I believe that smoking is a great public health concern, especially for young people, and I think a smoke-free campus is a great idea.”

Public relations major and media relations representative for Hornets for a Healthy Hive, Luis Kischmischian, 28, said the campaign has become successful in gaining support from the campus community.

“Our message has remained the same- keeping student’s health as the main priority,” Kischmischian said. “But the movement has gained momentum.”

In just more than a month, the group has gained more than 1,000 petition signatures from Sac State students and faculty from tabling in the campus quad. They have gained the support of Associated Students Inc. and an endorsement from Vice Mayor of Sacramento Angelique Ashby.

Hornets for a Healthy Hive also traveled to Long Beach to attend the CSU Board of Trustees meeting, and spoke with Chancellor Timothy White on Nov. 4.

“[White’s] vision is for the CSU system to become tobacco-free within the next three to four years,” Kischmischian said. “We’re kind of setting the blueprint and showing him how we’ve gotten support and how we’ve been implementing this to our students.”

Mike Uhlenkamp, director of media relations for CSU, said White is working with a task force to design an improved smoking and tobacco policy for all 23 campuses within the CSU system.

Dorado said the efforts of the CSU are great, but the amount of time it will take should be decreased.

“Yes, this is happening within the next couple years throughout the entire CSU system, but we feel as a part of this community here at Sac State that we can’t wait that long, we should do it now,” Dorado said.

Kim Nava, Sac State’s director of news services, said Gonzalez is still evaluating his response but should be on track to announce his decision by the organization’s deadline.

“All of our directors and I had a meeting with President Gonzalez to present our campaign to him. He liked the way we were progressing as a unit to pass on our message,” Kischmischian said. “He seemed to be in support of us, he wants to see how far we can take this and he wants us to gain the support of the student body. If everything goes as plans then when have a strong chance of getting this signed.”