Campus cigarette bans aren't the answer -

Campus cigarette bans aren’t the answer

Where smoking is outlawed it does more harm than good


xavi talleda/Flickr

Students at the University of Prince Edward Island are pushing to ban smoking on campus. Cigarettes, they say, are not only deadly for the poor schmucks who choose to light up but also harmful to the non-smoking citizens forced to walk through their carcinogenic clouds. The student union, reasonably enough, wants a plebiscite.

Such bans already exist at a number of east coast campuses, from Dalhousie to Memorial to Acadia. Perhaps something about the pristine ocean air makes them more sensitive to pollution.

I’m not a smoker. I think unwanted cigarette smoke is annoying and gross. Ontario’s government must have polling showing many people feel the same way or they wouldn’t have, just yesterday, banned smoking outside at restaurants and bars. I can think of more useful things for the province to do (for example, working on the deficit) but research has shown that smoke doesn’t easily dissipate outside on patios when people are sitting so at least there’s science behind the policy.

But that’s as far as it should go. Campus-wide bans are pointless, draconian and unnecessary.

First of all, anti-smoking bans don’t work. The prohibition of marijuana in 1923 (for which Maclean’s is partly to blame—we apologize) is having little impact on the number of pot-smoking students. I live beside a college and walk through pungent clouds of pot on my way out the door most days.

Cigarettes are banned too, within nine metres of entrances, but try telling that to the dozens of people puffing right outside the doors under signs warning of fines. I’ll bet the smokers feel safe knowing that security guards and police have better things to do than to try to explain how walking nine metres down the street, where there are just as many people gathered, is somehow safer.

At Dalhousie, where a ban has been in place since 2003, a friend who spent years on that campus tells me she has never heard of it and smoked there all the time without interference. No strangers followed Dal’s advice and “politely” brought the policy to her attention. I’m not really surprised.

I am disheartened though. If you create a ban, you at least need to enforce it. Enforcing rules only occasionally or at the whim of police leads to abuses of power. (Racial profiling, anyone?) It also makes people think they can pick and choose when to follow the rules (see: 2013 Senate Scandal).

When the UPEI Student Union dealt with a push to ban smoking back in 2007, its president argued that forcing smokers to walk off campus for their fix was potentially dangerous (think of the cars! the predators!). A better argument is simply that smokers have rights too and they shouldn’t have to take half-hour study breaks in -20 degree weather when a 10 minute pop outside would do.

Besides, cigarette use is already dropping. In 1999, 22 per cent of Grade 12 students surveyed in Ontario said they smoked at least one cigarette daily, according to the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey. By 2011, only four per cent said they smoked a cigarette daily. Past year cannabis use, meanwhile, declined only modestly over that period, from 28 to 22 per cent. Why is that? I would bet tobacco use is dropping and cannabis isn’t because it’s just not cool to smoke cigarettes anymore while lighting a joint is condoned by everyone from Miley Cyrus to Drake. On campuses where cigarettes are outlawed, they may become more appealing to rebellious youth.

Regardless, such bans do more harm than good. They only punish people who follow the rules.


Campus cigarette bans aren’t the answer

  1. I can understand the logic of banning cigarettes on elementary or secondary school grounds; however, a university campus is aimed at adults who have reached the age of smoking. Smoking is not against the law and it should not be outlawed at universities as most universities have residences. If I were a smoker wanting to attend a university, I guess I would pick a university that did not outlaw wmoking and I sure as hell would not reside on a university campus where smoking is banned. Most universities have large properties and I am sure that they could accommodate smokers with several sheltered outdoor smoking areas.

    • I agree that smoking ares should be allowed – for those who choose to smoke. They have informed choice and non-smokers can simply stay clear of the ares and not complain they can smell smoke.
      I’d rather smell smoke than skunky pot! Yet if it makes some people feel better it’s no worse than alcohol and I am sure has an affect on the lungs too when inhaling to zone out.
      If Government – all forms of it truly felt it was a health hazard, they’d ban cigarette sales not rake in taxes like they do.
      They rake in big taxes on alcohol too and look what it does to people like Rod Ford who has co dependents – – and is an extreme case of denial affecting more than the recognizable 17 they used to say.
      Addiction is an illness – you have to give it time to phase out.
      I may choose not to smoke but others do have a collective right. Vancouver was so adamant for years they banned people to the streets and then discovered with their no ashtray policy, a mess in the gutters – so now are experimenting with collection boxes (but did you notice they forgot the part where you butt out and the smoke pours out of the boxes!!! 20th century mentality.
      But Dr. Bodnar (astronaut) is right – 16% of people get lung cancer from radon which could be lurking in your basement………so I’d like to know the percentage indicators for car and diesel fumes, and the likes of other pollutants………..
      the causes and contraversy are all lumped towards smokers but is there not everything in the air from smelters to mills…for a breakdown.what about gas off in new products….’this is totally one that bothers me in new homes etc.’

  2. Cigarettes cause cancer. Period. No amount of cigarette smoke is acceptable. It is infuriating that smokers still disrespect no smoking laws. As a non-smoker, I find that smokers feel that they have the right to violate the public with their 2nd hand smoke with no regard for anyone else’s feelings or right to breathe clean air. Each time that I have approached a smoker to ask if they could move away from the front door of a restaurant I have been sworn at and told that they have the right to smoke (right under a non-smoking sign). They are the minority and laws are in place to be followed. There will be more and more pressure for the smokers not to smoke in public spaces as there are less smokers each year. Would a smoker like to be punched in the face when they are caught disregarding the non-smoking signs? I feel punched in the face each time that I am forced to walk in a cloud of cigarette smoke. Smokers need to think about that.