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Saxa Politica: Secondhand smoke out

November 29, 2007


Whenever I leave Lauinger after laboring within its stuffy walls for hours, I look forward to the fresh air that should greet me as the sliding doors open. Instead, I have to cough my way out of the building due to the ever-present clusters of smokers.

University policy is that “Smoking is allowed in outdoor locations except those designated as no-smoking areas. Smokers may not block the entrance to a building or subject non-smokers to passive smoke.”

Outdoor non-smoking areas are thus vaguely defined and there is no clear-cut idea of to where the non-smoking boundaries are. As a result, smokers often stand in front of entrances, puffing away. The University needs to remedy this problem by creating clearly defining non-smoking areas a certain distance from doorways.

University spokesperson Julie Green Bataille wrote in an e-mail that the current policy was written to protect the health of the University community, but vaguely defined boundaries do not ensure that public’s health. Smokers should be aware that second-hand smoke is more than a simple inconvenience. According to the American Lung Association, even short exposure to second-hand smoke can increase the risk of heart attacks and regular exposure causes the deaths of around 50,000 people annually due to heart disease and lung cancer. These effects more than justify forcing smokers to take a few more steps outside before lighting.

The smoking policy contains no clear level of enforcement. The duty falls ambiguously upon departmental managers, supervisors, even students and faculty, all of whom are not given clear instructions as to what they should do. The policy should be revised so that some group, such as the Department of Public Safety, should be held accountable for asking smokers to clear out of non-smoking zones when they see it.

An effective policy would set a non-smoking boundary at least twenty feet from doorways. This is more than enough space for smoke to dissipate and for non-smokers to avoid breathing in the secondhand smoke. Along with more constant and distinct enforcement, our air could be virtually smoke-free and harmless. Only with these measures will the University accomplish its goal of protecting the health of the community.



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