Potential smoking ban upsets on-campus staff


According to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, there are approximately 1,178 smoke-free colleges and universities in the U.S., and soon Northwestern might have to put its name on the list as the 22nd Illinois institution to declare itself completely smoke-free.

ASG introduced a resolution supporting a campus-wide tobacco ban at its first Senate meeting of the school year, and student representatives will vote on the proposed motion in their upcoming meeting on October 16.

Carolyn Huang, president of the Northwestern Public Health Club, pushed for the resolution which would not only make the campus smoke-free, but also ban the use of all tobacco products within campus boundaries.

The original proposal for a smoke-free campus came from the Benefits Committee of the Faculty Senate, which passed the motion on April 3.

“We’re way behind the Wellness Initiative, and we came up with the smoke-free campus proposal because we want to encourage a healthier lifestyle,” said Donna Jurdy, Chair of the Benefits Committee.

But the strongest opposition to the new proposal seems to come from university employees, many of whom take frequent smoke breaks in secluded areas around campus.

Melissa Watkins, one of the two cashiers at the University Library’s Plaza Café, said that she takes many smoke breaks during her 8-hour shift.

“For us smokers, smoke breaks are like huge stress relief,” Watkins said, “I saw the ban coming, but it will be hard for us because I know there are a lot of workers here who are smokers.”

While Watkins acknowledged that non-smokers are at a risk for second-hand smoke, she believes a complete ban would be unfair.

“Maybe they could make a designated area for smokers like us,” Watkins said .

If the motion goes through, the university can expect some opposition from student smokers as well.

“I can see why they want the ban to happen, but I think the smokers have rights too. I think the school should work to make both sides happy, instead of completely shunning one group,” said Thomas Kim, a Weinberg sophomore.

Although both ASG and the Faculty Senate do not have practical administrative power (they can only endorse ideas), ASG’s passage of the motion will definitely be a step towards actual implementation of the policy by the University administration.

“The University is studying the proposal to have Northwestern’s campuses be smoke-free, but has not made any decision on the issue,” said Alan Cubbage, Vice President of University Relations.

Update 10/16/13: ASG voted down the tobacco-free campus initiative 19 to 10.


Photo by Oxfordian Kissuth. Featured photo by Fried Dough (Flickr).

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