UVic’s smoking policy and you

You’re on your way to the Cornett building. You’re rushing, because you’re not exactly sure where that office is, and it’s a maze in that building at best. You round the corner by the McPherson Library and WHAM! A smell like someone’s thrown a dustpan of ashes in your face. You groan; cigarette smoke gives you headaches. You scan the people in front of you, some mingling, some walking, others rushing around, and spot the person smoking in front of you, walking in the same direction. They emit another puff of smoke, which curls into the air, propelled by the light wind blowing toward you.

In this moment, you have three options:

  1. Do nothing. Continue on your way. Follow in their footsteps for the duration their trip mirrors yours. Hope the headache doesn’t get too bad. Do not think about the ample research showing that second-hand smoke is carcinogenic. It’s nothing to get anxious over;
  2. Change your route. Step off the pathway and get out of the way of the smoke. Watch out for other people who may be doing the same;
  3. Skip a couple steps ahead and tap the person on the shoulder; say, “Excuse me. I don’t know if you’re aware, but we have a smoking policy on campus which asks that all people who choose to smoke do so at designated smoking areas. The nearest one to you is on the other side of the library, outside the Ring. I would really appreciate it if you consider that next time. Thanks!”

Today, the Smoking Policy Awareness Team asks you to consider option three. You may not be someone whose headaches get triggered by second-hand smoke; however, we urge you to become part of the community helping to make the University of Victoria a place where people’s health won’t be compromised. UVic’s smoking policy is short and sweet: no smoking inside Ring Road. Those choosing to smoke may use any of 15 designated smoking areas (DSAs) outside of Ring Road. All are, at most, a three minute walk or 300 metres from any building inside Ring Road.  A map of the sites can be found at uvic.ca/smoking.

Late last semester, the Awareness Team conducted a survey including 250 participants. The results indicated that over 75 per cent of those people knew about the policy on campus. Word of mouth was reported as one of the most effective methods of spreading awareness on the policy. During our rounds in the fall, we encountered many people using the DSAs; however, we also observed many people not using them.

We have an aware community. Now we need to turn that into an action-oriented community, to really make the smoking policy a success. The importance of having that 30-second conversation cannot be overstated. Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health’s chief medical officer, submitted evidence to the Capital Regional District (CRD) that comprised the basis for the CRD’s decision to extend the ban on smoking in public spaces in Greater Victoria. It shows that there is no safe exposure to second-hand smoke. The research is clear: smoking is detrimental to the health of both smokers and passersby. In light of this, it makes sense for a research institution like UVic to follow the evidence, as well as set itself up as a leader, by encouraging healthy practices for its community.

We need a community that is comfortable to ask and have those who choose to smoke plan for the time and place to smoke, just as people who choose to drive cars need to plan to find parking and pay for their ticket. The “parking spots” for people who choose to smoke are the designated smoking areas on campus.

One Comment

Avatar nonsmokinganon

Someone smoking on a main campus path during the time between classes when there are people everywhere is being inconsiderate. Giving the people around you no way to avoid your smoke trail is not okay. That being said, I think a lot of people think the designated smoking areas as they stand today are fairly unreasonable, and for good reason.

Up until the end of 2011, Uvic’s policy was to prohibit smoking from within 10 meters of buildings and structures. That allowed people who smoke the ability to do so without having to actually leave ring road, while still being consistent local clean air regulations. The new policy, and this article advocating from some questionable social behavior, seem more like an attempt to make it harder for people who choose to smoke to do so rather than anything else. Public health concern? You inhale more carcinogens waiting at the bus loop during peak hours than you do walking into biblio past someone smoking a cigarette, especially if they’re 10 meters away (study results pending). Instead, the current policy looks like an attempt to condemn a group of people’s personal choice, a choice we as a society think is their right to make.

Nobody wants to walk through someone’s freshly exhaled plume of smoke. Ash doesn’t taste good. But it seems like some anti-smoking campaigns are losing sight of the fact that some people want to smoke, and that’s okay. The way to reduce smoking is not to make it harder for people who want to do it; it’s to help the people who want to stop to quit, and making sure that those who don’t want to stop fully understand the risks. Having the only smoking areas at Uvic be outside of ring road is not only unrealistic and a rule that will inevitably be broken, it’s an awful and paternal approach to reducing smoking.

We shouldn’t be telling our community to confront one another, or foster an “Us vs. Them” mentality between smokers and non-smokers. The community needs to respect each other and the different choices we make, it’s not impossible to reasonably accommodate everyone.

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