The possibility of a Yale-wide smoking ban has ignited debate on campus.
After details of a committee that is investigating the feasibility of making Yale a smoke-free campus were released yesterday, student opinion has emerged divided over the desirability of such a ban. Though the committee, called the Tobacco-Free Yale Workgroup, has yet to make any firm decisions on the details of the proposal, or on the logistical aspects of applying a ban, they intend to send out a survey to gauge student, staff and faculty support sometime in February.
Forty of 75 students interviewed said they would support a smoking ban that included designated smoking areas. 32 of those students said they would be in favor of an entirely smoke-free campus.
Started in fall 2009, the Tobacco-Free Yale Workgroup is comprises approximately 30 members, including University administrators, faculty and two students.
“I think that we have accomplished a couple of things, most notably the survey of the opinions about smoking policy at Yale,” Patricia Stumpf, assistant director of clinical studies at Yale HEALTH and committee member, said.
Over the summer, a survey was sent to members of the University that the committee identified as “as being impacted by or having an opinion about” the policy, and the results are currently being analyzed, Stumpf said. She added that the committee hopes to extend this survey to the greater Yale community in the next few weeks.
But no specific details about the proposed ban have been determined yet.
“There are so many ways to implement a smoke-free campus that no decision has been made,” Stumpf explained, adding that the committee is not even certain a smoking ban would be feasible on the Yale campus.
Stumpf said that before the committee can propose a smoking ban, it will need to investigate the consequences and benefits of such an action as well as how it would work logistically.
For Tamar Kharatishvili ’14, the idea of designated spaces for smoking is appealing. Kharatishvili said she thinks smoking should be moved away from areas like the main entrances and exits of buildings where large numbers of people have to pass through.
“I, for example, am severely affected by cigarette smoke, and hate it when I begin coughing like crazy almost every time I need to go to the library,” Kharatishvili said.
Margaret Coons ’14, from Columbus, Ohio, a city that has restricted smoking in public places, said she was surprised to see the prevalence of smoking on campus when she arrived this fall. Although she said the ban was an adjustment for the Columbus community, she added that it was ultimately beneficial.
“It would be great to have a smoke-free campus to create a nicer atmosphere for nonsmokers … especially in the residential colleges,” she said.
But more than 21 percent of students interviewed said they do not consider smoking to be a large concern on campus.
“In my experience, most smokers at Yale have been reasonably considerate,” Rhia Catapano ’12 said. “So I don’t think the ban is really necessary.”
While some students said they believe it is the right of non-smokers to avoid breathing secondhand smoke, opponents of the potential ban said they believe it is also a person’s right to smoke in public places.
Twenty-five percent of students interviewed said they would not support a campuswide smoking ban.
“I hate the continual harping on smokers and smoking culture,” said Alexander Xenakis GRD ’15 said. “The idea of corralling us [smokers] into tiny locations is not only inconvenient, but furthers the idea that smoking is something to be ashamed of and further alienates smokers from nonsmokers.”
Only nine of the 75 students interviewed were smokers themselves.
Roy Herbst ’84 GRD ’84, the recently appointed chief oncologist for the Smilow Cancer Center and the chair of the American Association for Cancer Research Task Force on Tobacco and Cancer, said he would strongly support a campuswide smoking ban at Yale due to the numerous health risks arising from smoking.
“Tobacco has been linked with 18 different types of cancer,” he said. “There’s no safe form of tobacco and banning it on an university campus is, in my opinion, clearly a very appropriate way to go.”
Miami University in Ohio is one of 466 schools nationwide that have smoke-free campuses.
At Miami University, smoking is prohibited on all university-owned grounds, including sidewalks, walkways, indoor/outdoor facilities and parking spaces.
The Miami University ban has had a visible impact on campus.
“Before there was this smoking ban, there were so many cigarette butts and packs everywhere,” Miami University junior Ryanaustin Dennis said. “The ban was like a way of cleaning up the campus.”
An independent survey on the Yale Daily News website showed 48 votes in favor of the smoking ban and 57 opposed to it as of press time.
Sam Greenberg contributed reporting.