June 6th, 2016 – It was a day that would mark a transitionary period of sorts for those who willingly subject themselves to the minority group that it is to be a smoker, as California enforced a new regulation which changed the legal smoking age from eighteen to twenty-one years of age. The effects that immediately proceeded this measure were felt statewide, as is exemplified hrough Folsom Lake College’s recent decision to move towards a smoke-free campus, which went into full effect on August 1st, 2016 – almost two months after the law had been enforced to the date. For those who find themselves within the demographic of students who smoke, this fact of life is constantly reiterated to them through the means of the, ‘Clean the Air,’ flyers that have been distributed throughout the school in order to address the rhetorical situation of this event, and to ensure that the message is conveyed to the entirety of the student body. On a surface level, these flyers seem to illustrate concern for the environment, what with their strong slant and emphasis on the word air, which is surrounded by a big bubbly depiction of what can be characterized as a, “clean,” cloud. However, on a much more macroscopic level, when considering the exigencies that called these flyers into existence, it is transparently evident that the underlying cause behind these memos is that of adhering to this new law. On a rudimentary level, an in-depth comprehensive analysis of various rhetorical factors utilized throughout FLC’s, “Clean the Air,” leaflets, specifically that of the intended audience, the timing of their distribution, and the subtle implications found within the text itself, illustrates how the flyers serve to meet the exigencies of the newly enforced regulations concerning the legal smoking age.
In her article, “Arts of the Contact Zone,” Mary Louise Pratt quotes Benedict Anderson’s as defining an imagined community as, “an imagined entity in which people will never know most of their members, meet them or even hear of them, yet in the mind of each lives the image of their communion” (Pratt5). With this conceptualization being kept into consideration, this definition is crucial in discerning the, “Clean the Air’s,” intended audience. Ostensibly, it would seem that the pamphlet addresses the collective body of individuals who participate in the environment that is FLC. This fact is substantiated in the fact that the words, “Folsom Lake College, or at least a reference to it such as an acronym can be found in seven different instances, in addition to how the school’s symbol of a bridge-like arch can be found centered at the very bottom of the hand-out. It is also present in the way that the designer of it so ingeniously incorporated a color scheme that includes hues of a type of teal, that is strikingly similar in juxtaposition to the color of the FLC mascot, the falcon, which is also the school’s color. Not only that, but the bullet point that notes that, ““Adherence is the responsibility of all students, faculty, staff and visitors,” would seemingly make it a dead giveaway. However, this is but a mere generalization, for in all totality, these flyers speech directly to two imagined communities in specific. The first, and most obvious being that of the smoker’s, who are doing the actual adhering to in the case, for all other parties are for the most part unaffected. Nothing has to change. It is this demographic that has to deal with the conflicts of the contact zone, or, “social spaces where cultures clash in asymmetrical relations to power” (Pratt 2). Conversely, the other groups that is not so much affected by this recent memo, as can be considered the causation of it, is that of the students aged seventeen to twenty in attendance. Likened to how compulsory schools prohibit smoking to protect their students from being tempted to start this habit, so to it seems FLC has adopted this pedagogy in accordance with the new state law in order to protect those who are not yet twenty-one. While the very need for these flyers to address the collegiate body on the matter provides ample evidence that they act to meet the exigencies of the recent changes in California laws regarding the issue, the fact is further bolstered in the timing of the distribution of them, and in it’s enforcement of the new rule.
When discussing the ideology, or theory, behind a rhetorical situation, Lloyd F. Bitzer notes in his article of a similar title, “We need to understand that a particular discourse comes into existence because of some specific condition or situation which invites utterance” (Bitzer 4). To demonstrate this point, Bitzer illustrates how influential individuals such as Kennedy, Lincoln, and Winston Churchill search for that crisis situation in which to response. In addition, he then goes on to define a rhetorical situation as, “a complex of person’s events, objects and relations which can be completely or partially removed if discourse, introduced into the situation, can so constrain human decision or action as to bring about the significant modification of the exigency” (Bitzer 6). That being said, in the case of the flyers that have been passed out throughout the school, one can not overlook that the timing of their distribution as some sort of coincidence. The text, “smoke free as of August 1, 2016, which is so buoyantly scrawled on both sides of the flyer, comes at a time just two months following the law going into motion – thus providing those who do smoke ample time to find alternative solutions, especially when bearing in mind that it takes approximately one month to change a habit. That is to say, that the flyers are clearly the school’s attempt to meet the exigencies of the new regulation, and thus pandering to the politically correct; the condition being the law in and of itself, which ultimately called for the school’s decision to enforce it, which invited for these leaflets to be breathed into life to convey the message to the intended audience – a relatively basic demonstration of cause and effect. Although both the intended audience and the convenient timing of these memos should be enough to substantiate the fact that this is a measure to meet the exigencies of the recent age restrictions pertaining to smoking, the subtitles found within the flyers text itself further bolsters this stipulation.
In his article entitled, “The Importance of the Act of Reading,” Paulo Freire notes, “The actual act of reading literary texts is seen as part of a wider process of human development…Reading the world thus precedes reading the word and writing a new text must be seen as one means of transformation.” This process, as is seen in the new reality which Freire mentions, can be found in the transformation of the school into one that is smoke-free; one that begins with understanding the subtleties found within the context of the bold effervescent lettering that can be found on the FLC handouts that read, “Folsom Lake College is Smoke, Tobacco, & Vape-Free As Of August 1, 2016.” Quintessentially, these hand-outs serve as a more polite, and friendly replacement for the type of yellow-cautionary sign you would expect to find at a high school that bears the icon of a cigarette within a circle with a line through it that reads, “This is a tobacco-free campus,” ; the irony of which is the utilization of yellow hue found in the flyer, and how many students have expressed their feelings that the new rule has them reminiscent of the type of constraints they felt in high school over the same issue.
The new anti-smoking rule issued by FLC is irrefutably an exigency of the California state law pertaining to the legal smoking age. This fact is illustrated in the otherwise convenient timing of the ruling, which, for the most part, was directly in synchronicity with the law having passed. Although it can be argued that the school held a survey concerning this matter should be enough to refute this argument, it is a relatively empty one nonetheless. As a member of a subordinate group, one is painstakingly aware that they are not part of the majority. In this case, it would seem the the survey was just a facade to cover up the school’s real intentions, which it would appear that the school board had set from the very start. Even if the entire smoking populace voted against the measure, it would not have been of any substantial weight. Furthermore, it is apparent in the way that the, “Clean the Air,” intended audience is that of smoker’s, with a less intended audience of individual’s ages 18-25, who it can be argued are the causation for such measure. Finally, it is found deep within the subtle implications found within the text itself. Despite the sagely design of the flyers, they might as well read, “ Folsom Lake College: For Federal Funds We Cater.”