There is a growing trend among university and college campuses in North America to ban cigarette smoking completely, and as far as I’m concerned, SFU should follow suit.
About a dozen Canadian campuses, such as Memorial University in St. John’s, Dalhousie in Halifax, and the University of Alberta in Edmonton, have already implemented bans on smoking, and according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, at least 1,475 campuses in the United States are now smoke-free. So why hasn’t SFU joined them?
From 2013–2014, a campaign was underway on campus, Tobacco-Free SFU, supported by the Faculty of Health Sciences. Over the course of about six months, the group started a petition, held some events, and lobbied the administration to make SFU smoke-free. Their goal was to change the current university policy to ensure that there would be no cigarette smoke or cigarettes on campus, and to add clauses relating to the divestment of tobacco company assets and the refusal of funding from the tobacco industry.
That initiative seems to have fallen by the wayside, but it’s time to take up this cause again and clear the air once and for all on our campus.
While some may say that banning an activity will only make people want to rebel against the regulation, with the right enforcement and education, this could easily be overcome. Smoking is also on the decline in Canada, which might beg the question of whether a ban is necessary, but there are many places on campus where you can be met with clouds of unwelcome secondhand smoke simply when trying to get from point A to point B.
A 10-metre smoke free zone simply isn’t enough, and isn’t currently well enforced.
The walkway above Convocation Mall is notorious, as are the areas outside many of the main entrances to campus buildings. A 10-metre smoke-free zone simply isn’t enough, and it isn’t currently well-enforced, either.
There is plenty of research showing that second-hand smoke can be hazardous to our health, and for this reason smoking has been banned in a multitude of public places such as restaurants, patios, beaches, parks, and bus stops. I don’t see why our public university campus should be any different.
It’s true that smoking remains a legal pastime, and it is a personal choice. If people choose to smoke, that’s their business. However, that business happens to also create airborne toxins that are dangerous when inhaled by others, so it would be best if smokers kept their bad habit away from the public.
In addition, the litter created by hundreds of cigarette butts, aside from being an eyesore, is toxic and detrimental to the environment. Butts are not biodegradable and they contain heavy metals and other harmful materials that can leach into the soil and water.
SFU Health Sciences Professor Kelley Lee has suggested that tobacco companies should be responsible for the toxic butts, and the mayor of North Vancouver would like to see a deposit placed on them.
We don’t need these pollutants on campus, and we would all be better off if SFU and all other universities were smoke-free, so that nobody would have to walk through a cloud of cigarette smoke to get to class.