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.

Comments

  • faun

    Completely oppose the ban. Other smokers help me find the normal people at Yale.

    But if Yale wants to pay for patches or gum, I’ll quit in a heartbeat because cigarettes are so expensive around here. Forget condoms. Load the entryways with patches instead.

    Also, define “Yale campus.”

  • tonykez

    It is about time!

  • GrokThis

    I oppose this ban. I oppose smoke, I don’t like it and never have been a smoker.

    This ban will do very little to help people quit smoking but it will chip away at the relationship Yale Security has with the Yale-New Haven community. People love to hate authority and smokers lately have been embattled. Why not hold off on the ban and concentrate on all other aspects of this campaign to help members of the Yale community quit.

    The only benefit of such a ban is it is easy to implement and will allow the Yale Corporation to add Yale to the competition for University Superlatives; “Most Smoke-Free”, “Most Green”, yada, yada, yada.

  • River Tam

    This is one of the dumber things I’ve heard of.

  • ROFLCOPTER

    If I wanna smoke a cig, I’m gonna smoke a cig.

  • damurf

    This is ridiculous. how can you ban a substance that isn’t illegal? most kids on campus drink, even though you’re technically supposed to be 21…but this campus still isn’t dry, which is a good thing. but banning a substance that is legal for almost every person on campus to purchase? god these puritanical east coast administrators are really starting to vex me

  • nickss

    I think this is a fantastic idea, and only hope the administration starts moving on it, soon.

  • b

    I agree, damurf! Those damn East Coast administrators. This is why nothing like this will happen in a place like the University of Arkansas, right?

    Oh, wait, it did. In fact, they along with many other places (259 total) are full-on tobacco free – see:
    http://www.lungoregon.org/tobacco/pdf_word_doc/Tobacco-Free_Colleges_and_Universities_100.pdf

    Here’s 466 schools which are smoke-free:
    http://www.no-smoke.org/pdf/smokefreecollegesuniversities.pdf

    And the benefit of this is that it leads to healthier people. I fully expect the university will indeed have some plan, as other places have had, to help people quit.

  • Larchmont

    I don’t really care about a smoking ban, but can we please work on a “scents” ban? As in, ban perfumes, candles & air fresheners.

  • damurf

    Yea b thats a good point. I’m glad hick states like arkansas feel the need to infringe upon the rights of 18+ individuals who are able to buy cigarettes. also, does it lead to healthier people? because last time i checked, people who smoke don’t do it because its healthy. i’m one of them. if cigarettes are banned on campus, people aren’t going to stop smoking on campus. they’ll just do it and be demonized, even though the activity itself perfectly legal in this country. yale feels the need to supersede the laws of this country because of an arbitrary assessment on what is healthy and best for its students. but who are they to make that decision and bypass the laws of the country? and did the university of arkansas ban alcoholic beverages? if so, why haven’t we? if its truly a health concern why don’t we also ban soda and fatty foods? carried to a logical extreme, obesity is one of the main concerns of this country today. so if yale is striving to be the “most healthy” school then they’ll exercise their authority to ban all “unhealthy” entities, and we lose french fries and all of our soft drinks.

  • Yale12

    I’m pretty sure the assessment that cigarettes are unhealthy for everybody involved is far from “arbitrary.”

  • Yale12

    I’m pretty sure the assessment that cigarettes are unhealthy for everybody involved is far from “arbitrary.” And the difference between cigarettes and french fries is that you choose to eat fries. You don’t choose to get secondhand smoke.

  • Yale12

    I’m pretty sure the assessment that cigarettes are unhealthy for everybody involved is far from “arbitrary.” And the difference between cigarettes and french fries is that you choose to eat fries. You don’t choose to be exposed to secondhand smoke.

  • damurf

    yea but its our decision to smoke…and its legal to do so. so who is yale to say we can’t? and its not an arbitrary assessment of smoking as unhealthy. its an arbitrary decision to ban one unhealthy substance, but to promote plenty of other unhealthy ones in various aspects of our yale careers.

  • damurf

    yea but its our decision to smoke…and its legal to do so. so who is yale to say we can’t? and its not an arbitrary assessment of smoking as unhealthy. its an arbitrary decision to ban one unhealthy substance, but to promote plenty of other unhealthy ones in various aspects of our daily lives.

  • faun

    I would still like to know what exactly constitutes campus. I think the schools that were able to successfully ban smoking on their campuses had campuses that were clearly and distinctly defined. Yale does not have the sort of campus (besides the Old Campus and the Colleges) where a ban would be beneficial or even practical.

    What about the sidewalks of New Haven? Are they a part of Yale campus? If you’re worried about second-hand smoke the place you’ll inhale it the most is on a sidewalk, not a bench in one of the Colleges. If smoking is banned on campus then smokers will hit the sidewalks and second-hand smoke will become more of problem than it already is, though I think second-hand smoke is hardly a problem at all.

    Think this through people.

  • Yale12

    You said: “because of an arbitrary ASSESSMENT on what is healthy.” I was addressing that false claim.

    It’s your decision to smoke. But those of us who sit near you, walk by you, room with you, etc., etc., do not get to decide whether or not to inhale your smoke. That’s what separates smoking from drinking, eating fast food, etc., etc. It’s why drinking is legal and drinking and driving is not – the latter impacts others besides yourself.

  • faun

    Also, looking at the colleges where smoking is banned, they seem to be colleges that do not have an intellectual focus. Part of the appeal of Yale is the community that has a slight disregard for the body in favor of the enlightenment of the mind. Cigarette breaks allow for intellectual conversation that makes Yale and other “intellectual” schools interesting. It’s almost like current student smokers are preserving an academic tradition that is disappearing but that they feel is worth saving.

    I feel like it’s worth saving.

  • Smoker

    I smoke. I know it’s unhealthy but it makes me happy. It helps me wake up in the morning, helps me meet new people, and relieves stress. People are way too obsessed about health these days. If Yale bans smoking because they’re deeming it unhealthy why not also ban overeating? You wouldn’t prohibit fat people from eating would you? If it makes them happy WHO THE F*CK CARES. I’m more concerned about my happiness and living life to the fullest. I’ll quit after I graduate but college is a time where we have the opportunity to indulge our vices. I find it highly hypocritical that Yale does nothing to deal with underage drinking and is thinking of wasting time and resources picking on smokers. I do understand though, trying to tackle the drinking problem would reveal Yale as the hedonistic institution everyone in the outside world accuses us of being, whereas I can see how a smoking ban might “improve our image”. In case you were wondering; we party wednesday through sunday and can maintain a 3.4 average by studying two full days a semester(once for midterms once for finals). We are encouraged to work at Goldman Sachs and make money at the expense of the nation we’re supposed to be helping.
    For God(the only thing I’ve heard about the divinity school is that one of its students got deported for rape)
    For Country(I think Bush shows how negative an impact we have on the country)
    For Yale( Go into banking and donate $$)

  • penny_lane

    Banning smoking would be a huge fire hazard, as it would drive smokers indoors. I say that doing one or both of two things would be preferable to a ban:

    1. Step up the smoking cessation assistance in as many ways as possible (incentives to employees, programs for students, etc.)
    2. Designate areas on campus where smoking is allowed, and ask that people smoke in those areas only. Given that second-hand smoke is a legitimate health concern, especially for those who may have respiratory issues, I would hope that this would seem a good compromise.

    Bans in general are just terrible ideas.

  • dalet5770

    I just happen to think it is nothing more than slinging mud at all those who enjoy oral gratification. What about things that we see that are offensive – second hand sight that leaves a mind altering and sometimes permenantly damaging picture in our minds – Like two woman or men kissing. we don’t allow child pornography for the mind but we allow second hand sight. If a person had to stare at trama all day are they not compensated for it in ways of making public safety an issue?

  • yaylie

    The measure wouldn’t be out of concern for the smokers’ health – it would be out of concern for their second hand smoke victims. The nonsmoking majority deserves fresh air on campus. It would be nice to see a ban, although they should put some designated smoking areas out in the back of every building where few people pass by.

  • NO

    um … no
    i don’t think anyone can pretend that they get second hand smoke from people just standing in residential college courtyards. I think most of the second hand smoke people get is on the sidewalks. And it’s not even bad. We banned smoking in public places, which really put non-smokers at risk. We’re pretty much safe now, it’s a good compromise.
    Also, what do you suggest? That smokers just take a hike at 2AM in New Haven when they feel like having a cig? I don’t think so.
    Smoking indoors is another issue, and it’s normal that roommates, etc. don’t accept it.

  • dalet5770

    It was Hitler who called smoking masturbation of the lungs do we really want to discourage masturbation for every person who is tramatized by the world around us and finds comfort in smoking

  • faun

    This measure is being considered for the health of the smoker and NOT for the health of the (currently nonexistent) on-campus, second-hand smoke victim. I simply do not believe that there are second-hand smoke victims from students smoking on campus. On the streets and sidewalks of New Haven? Yes. At an off-campus party? Certainly. In the areas that are already designated as smoking areas? Yeah, but you know what you’re getting yourself into.

    I honestly hope this article raises awareness that it’s very difficult for anyone to inhale second-hand smoke on campus. The smell of smoke is not second-hand smoke, by the way.

  • Undergrad

    Forget tobacco–there’s a much bigger health problem caused by Yale students’ rampant use of marijuana, which is way more widely used than tobacco, and is almost as common as alcohol. Pot is almost always smoked indoors, causing a huge second-hand problem, and it also makes New Haven more dangerous by feeding money into organized crime. Yale needs to do more to discourage pot smoking and educate students about its negative effects on students’ health and on the community, rather than just pretending that the problem doesn’t exist.

  • harbinger

    If Yale is really concerned about health on campus, they’ll institute a ban on alcohol on campus and in the dorms. But it’s a typical knee jerk reaction to something that’s unpopular and politically incorrect in some camps, which makes it an easy target. We have sex parties on campus, drugs on campus and every other pleasure or sin known to man and God. But leave it to Yale to go after the unpopular addiction. How come the same people who will toss rocks at a cigarette smoker will follow me for a block to tell me how nice the tobacco in my pipe smells? Yale want’s to control your every moment, it’s time to rachet up the pay and benefits for being under a 24 hour a day nanny watch.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Both my parents smoked for 50 years and died from emphysema-related illness, one on life-support machinery for 118-days, fully conscious, while stranded 3000 miles from home.

    It never occurred to them that my childhood bronchitis might be related to being locked in a closed house and closed car with two smoking adults.

    They were not cruel people. They were addicted. Addiction is an illness. We push drugs to addicts in stores all over America (liquor, tobacco, and soon, I predict, marijuana).

    America is addicted to gasoline, oil, and propane which does far more damage to the air and water (both ingested/inhaled by humans) than second-hand smoke.

    TOBACCO, BOOZE, FOOD, CAFFEINE, SEX, VIOLENCE, POWER are all dopamine producers. The dopamine produced by addictive behavior is itself addicting:
    Religion isn’t the opiate of the masses, ADDICTION is the opiate of the masses

    Face it: America IS Addiction.
    (Even its President sneaks a butt on White House grounds.)

  • lets_be_reasonable

    How about we start by discouraging smoking in the Bass stairwell pits? While the sidewalk/courtyard second-hand smoke argument strikes me as a bit of a desperate exaggeration, I must say that the stairwell hotbox that I’m forced to enjoy upon entering and leave Bass Library is pretty gross. I can’t help but find this a bit inconsiderate on the part of our surely well-intentioned smoking peers. But I guess I could always just hold my breath. Or enter through Sterling.

  • MsMoneypenny

    The more I hear of these kind of things, the more I feel like starting up smoking again. Seriously!
    If you’re going to ban smoking everywhere on campus, better ban cars, buses and trucks too- because the fumes from them are FAR more noxious than what you’ll get from a stray cigarette.
    I miss the glory days of the ’80s when you could smoke IN Cross Campus Library (yes, you could!) One side was smoking, the other side not. You just knew which side to sit on if you wanted to- or not. Of course then, like now, there were the whiney crybabies who were vehemently anti-smoking and sat on the smoking side so they’d have something to complain about. Now they’re spreading their tentacles.
    Think I might buy a pack this weekend!

  • dalet5770

    A grail should not be confused as an ashtray but a metaphor for indulgence. That is why we have Vomitoriums

  • Jaymin

    meh…I’ll probably never smoke in my life, but I see plenty who do around me, and often it’s in the context of socializing/hanging out. When done in open places, I hardly see the problem. Sure, it’ll probably cut back a few years, but the point of life isn’t length; if smoking is a part of your understanding of what it means to live well, so be it.

  • faun

    Thanks for understanding, Jaymin.

  • DisgruntledHarvardAlum

    Yale should do whatever is necessary to make sure nonsmokers don’t have to breathe smoke. Total smoking bans often don’t accomplish this.

    A hospital in my city banned smoking on its campus. As a result, everyone smokes in a bus shelter I use. So things are worse for me. It also means people passing by see a big crowd of smokers in front of the campus entrance.

    My dorm didn’t allow smoking, so everyone smoked right outside my window.

    It would be better if there were a designated smoking area somewhere on campus, where nobody else had to see or smell it.

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