Yale mulls smoke-free campus

Yale is considering instituting a no-smoking policy on campus, as some other schools have done.
Yale is considering instituting a no-smoking policy on campus, as some other schools have done. Photo by YDN.

A group of Yale administrators has formed a committee to investigate the benefits of making Yale a smoke-free campus.

Led by Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry, a committee comprising Yale HEALTH officials, faculty, staff and students is investigating whether a campuswide smoking ban is feasible at Yale. The “Tobacco Free Yale Workgroup,” which plans to survey the Yale community “soon” in order to assess the number of smokers on campus, is also researching programs that could be put in place to support smoking cessation, director of Yale HEALTH Paul Genecin said. While students interviewed were divided over whether Yale should establish a smoking ban, most agreed that Yale should consider a person’s right to smoke before making any final decisions.

Yale is examining whether or not to ban smoking on campus, as some other schools have done.
Yale is examining whether or not to ban smoking on campus, as some other schools have done.

“We need to provide incentives for those who seek to quit, and we need to help educate those who might start,” committee member and Dean of Yale College Mary Miller said. “Our educational commitments extend beyond the classroom and to the larger health — and long-term, lifetime health — of our community.”

The committee, formed in the fall of 2009, has been meeting intermittently over the past three semesters to discuss the impact of a smoking ban on the Yale community and to design a survey that will gauge the prevalence of smoking on campus.

Gentry said his main focus is to include programs that would help and support current smokers who want to quit. But he added that he is aware that there could be parties who oppose the ban.

“We all need to consider how the policy is going to affect the people who smoke, and we need to have programs to address it,” Gentry said.

Sections of the Yale campus are already designated smoke-free areas, Genecin said, including Yale-New Haven Hospital, the School of Medicine, West Campus, the Yale Health Center and the Yale Police Department. For example, Yale-New Haven Hospital and the Yale Health Center have prohibited people from smoking indoors, on the surrounding sidewalks, in the parking garages and elsewhere on their grounds, Genecin said.

Miller added that some residential colleges have restrictions on smoking and smoking locations, but others do not.

While these smaller areas are able to be successfully smoke-free, a campuswide smoking ban would face legal and ethical obstacles.

Because the Yale campus is closely integrated with the city of New Haven, Genecin said, the committee needs to investigate how a campuswide smoking ban would affect New Haven residents who pass through the campus regularly.

The committee will also investigate issues surrounding the legality of banning smoking as it relates to personal rights, a concern that many students interviewed expressed.

“I hate smoking, I hate smoke, I avoid it at all costs,” Hala Siraj ’13 said. “But I do think people should have the right to smoke if it’s not hurting anyone else but themselves.”

Alexandra Dennett ’12, who used to smoke, said a Yale-wide ban on smoking would make students who smoke feel unwelcome on their own campus. Former smoker Joseph Lee ’11 agreed that a ban would increase the already existent social stigma surrounding smoking.

“I think [smoking] is a bad habit but [the ban] is a kind of like discrimination because it’s also a hard habit to quit,” smoker Dave Santana, who is the second cook in the Silliman dining hall, said.

Santana said he has tried to quit numerous times, but the stress of working in a busy environment has made it difficult to achieve this goal. In the past, Santana said, he has purchased nicotine patches from the Yale Pharmacy but because of the high cost of these aids he said he believes Yale HEALTH should be doing more to help people stop smoking through support resources.

Other students were supportive of the possible smoking ban.

“I don’t come across many smokers but anything to reduce the number of smokers I think is a great idea,” Alex Hess ’12 said.

According to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, at least 466 colleges and universities nationwide have entirely smoke-free campuses as of January 2011. Included on this list are the University of Michigan, Washington University in St. Louis and Miami University of Ohio.

David Burt and Sam Greenberg contributed reporting.

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