Accommodating smokers

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Before entering every building on the UNBSJ campus, students come face-to-face with “no smoking” decals indicating smokers must stand ten metres away from all entrances to refrain from violation. In the quad this translates to a thirty-three foot safe haven for non-smokers. In respect to policies in the same vein as Dalhousie University’s smoke-free policy, the UNBSJ campus remains smoker-friendly with public ashtrays provided outside. David Gillespie, UNBSJ’s environmental health, safety & security manager says it’s all about accommodating and compromising with students, faculty and staff; be they a smoker or non-smoker.

Tobacco use/smoking prevalence is highest in young adults between the ages of 20 and 24 at 21.1 per cent (Centre for Population Health Impact, 2012) which translates to approximately 121 nicotine users out of the estimated 2,550 students at UNBSJ. This number varies in consideration of those outside of the age group indicated who both do and do not smoke.

When asked about smoking on campus, Gillespie says, “It is a constant issue that smokers violate the ten metre non-smoking buffer. There are more concerns on campus for security than simply protecting entrances from violators around the clock, but keeping the campus and its population healthy needs to be a shared responsibility between all […] parties involved anyway. The silent mentality of ‘it’s not my problem’ positively reinforces violation as socially acceptable behaviour.”

In accordance with UNBSJ’s 1987 smoking policy, “the right of the non-smoker to protect his/her health and safety will take precedence over another’s desire to smoke.” Smokers may be welcome on campus, but adherence to campus smoking policy is confused by the very placement of public ashtrays (most of which are located within the non-smoking buffer) and the proximity of the quad adjacent entrances. In order to smoke respectfully within the quad, nicotine fanatics must cluster almost directly at the centre. The one and only semi-covered outdoor space on campus (below the breezeway between the G. Forbes Athletics Centre and the Thomas J. Condon Student Centre) violates the ten metre buffer from both sides.

“Smoking on campus sucks,” says second year Arts student and tobacco user, Katrina Pridgeon, “we have nowhere to go that’s covered when it’s raining or snowing.” Fourth year student and non-smoker, Courtney Vail says, “I don’t mind when students smoke on campus, it doesn’t bother me. I only really seem to notice people smoking when they are standing in front of doors that I’m going into. I think you should be able to smoke if you do, but that you should respect people who don’t and stay away from the doors, crowded areas, etc.”

Administrative smoker accommodation is also estranged by the possibility of charges for buffer zone violators. Gillespie says he has never seen it put into place, but under the student disciplinary code if someone is a repeat offender, charges can be laid by the student disciplinary committee. The charges vary but can be anywhere between a warning to a fine equivalent to seven per cent of tuition costs.