Skyline College aims towards creating a smoke-free campus

SFCHC works with Skyline College to create the OnlyFog project


Andrea Sto. Domingo

Skyline College is currently working towards building a smoke-free campus

The San Francisco Community Health Center (SFCHC) and Skyline College’s Health and Wellness Department are heading towards making Skyline a smoke-free campus.

SFCHC received a California Tobacco Control Program grant in 2019 and they decided to partner with the San Mateo Community College District to create the OnlyFog Project. SFCHC collaborated with Skyline’s Sociology and Social Justice studies Professor Rika Yonemura-Fabian Ph.D. to help create a smoke-free campus at Skyline College.

The OnlyFog project’s main purpose is to adopt a policy to remove all nine smoking zones currently on campus and make it 100% smoke-free by March 2022. The root of this project is to combat the social justice issue at hand, tobacco use among young adults within the community.

According to the California Tobacco Control Program, groups such as minorities, people with mental health problems, and the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to be influenced by tobacco use. 81% of Skyline’s population are people of color, which are the most vulnerable to being affected by tobacco use not only within the community but in their homes.

“Lots of people consider tobacco in a very narrow way, that it’s a personal choice,” said Professor Rika Yonemura-Fabian Ph.D. “What people may not be familiar with is that more tobacco shops are found in lower-income areas. In higher income, more white areas very few tobacco shops are found while areas such as predominantly Black, Latino, and Asian neighborhoods you can find one on every block.”

The project’s first steps were to take a poll of Skyline students and see how they felt about the use of tobacco on campus through secondhand smoke.

Mark Heringer, a former Skyline student who now works at SFCHC, remembers his time on campus and how frequently his classmates would use the smoking zones, especially times under stress.

“When I was a student I remember hearing a lot of complaints that there was a lot of smoking during finals near the library,” said Heringer.

If the policy were to pass, some students would defy the rule. Yonemura-Fabian and Heringer are choosing an educational approach rather than a punishment method.

“There are smokers on campus and they are addicted and addiction is not a crime,” said Yonemura-Fabian. “I really think the main solution would be a lot of resources and sources of education for students which will be provided on campus. I always talked about the nicotine patch and put them in dispensary machines as a remedy so you can fight the urge to pick up the cigarette. Also, things such as counseling and info sessions would be what we would provide.”

“One of the things we want to ensure is that we get our message across that the big tobacco industries are targeting people of color, low-income individuals, and also the LGBTQ+ community,” said Heringer. “If you are caught smoking on campus by the police you know well enough that they fall under the targeted community. What we want to do is prevent that type of discrimination, that’s why we do not want to go with the punishment approach. We do not want to cause another unnecessary interaction. One thing we want to do is focus on education enforcement.”

Anthony Herrera, a kinesiology student at Skyline, who is a smoker stands on the neutral side of the project.

“I am neutral because I know it is a place for people to smoke and relax,” said Herrera.“I myself do not use the smoking zones so if they get rid of them it will not affect me at all.”

However, Anastasiya Garanchuk, a nursing major at Skyline who is not a smoker agrees with the OnlyFog project idea.

“I agree to remove all nine smoking zones on campus because the fewer chances people have to smoke, the less they will actually smoke,” said Garanchuk. “I do understand the principle of freedom, every person has the right to choose to smoke, but a school campus should teach right and healthy values.”

The main takeaway that Professor Yonemura-Fabian and Heringer want Skyline students to take from OnlyFog is that Big Tobacco industries do target the minority communities and that it is a social justice issue.

“We want everyone to remember to protect themselves, something we talk about is harm reduction,” said Heringer. “Harm reduction does not mean you quit cold turkey, it means that you take it day by day and set small goals that will get you eventually to your big goal.”

The outcome of the OnlyFog project has not been determined but has been set to vote on the outcome in November.