All college courtyards will now be smoke- and vape-free, according to an email sent by Head of Hopper College Julia Adams to members of the college community on Monday evening.
The Council of Heads of College voted to make residential college courtyards smoke-free during the academic year, Adams wrote in the email, which said the rule will apply to both smoking and vaping.
Stephen Davis, the head of the council and of Pierson College, said there was no specific reason for the timing of the announcement, but that Yale has been considering the move since University President Peter Salovey launched the “Tobacco Free Yale” initiative in 2015.
“Our goal is to create a healthier University community, foster a community culture in which tobacco users are supported in their efforts to quit and become a model for other universities to emulate,” Salovey said in his 2015 University-wide email announcing the initiative.
Since then, the Tobacco Free Initiative has held awareness campaigns, offered help and resources to people trying to quit smoking, and promoted smoking cessation programs.
Lisa Kimmel, director of wellness and health education and co-director of the Tobacco Free Initiative, said that she welcomed the new decision, describing it as an important part of Yale’s efforts to go tobacco-free.
“We are working to create an environment that supports the health and well-being of our faculty, students and staff,” Kimmel told the News. “Tobacco-free environments help to create a culture that supports others to quit, and in time, to change cultural norms.”
While Kimmel praised the decision, she said that there is more work to be done, such as “implementing a University-wide policy” and updating the entire Yale community on “where we stand on our tobacco-free journey.”
Lynn Fiellin, director of Yale’s Alcohol and Other Drugs Harm Reduction Initiative, also applauded the decision.
“It has been a goal for the past few years, so any aspect of making areas or segments of the University tobacco-free is absolutely a step in the right direction,” Fiellin said. “I think sending the message that we are making our environment tobacco-free and smoke-free is a pretty powerful statement, in line with what a university like Yale should be saying.”
As part of the effort to end smoking in college courtyards, the new policy also eliminates designated smoking spaces from all colleges, Davis told the News. While previously, there was no uniformity among colleges with regard to designated smoking spaces — some, like Hopper and Jonathan Edwards College, had special areas in the courtyard for smokers — the recent decision makes each college entirely smoke-free.
Fiellin acknowledged that the question of eliminating designated smoking spaces is a challenging one, but maintained that the harmful effects of smoking still necessitate the new policy.
“From a science perspective, there are unequivocally, no benefits to smoking. And that’s not just smokers themselves, but to people around them,” Fiellin said. “So, I just think it sends a message that places like Yale — be it Yale College or the overall University — this is a place where we want to promote health.”
Kimmel agreed, saying the focus of the initiative was not to punish or shame members of the community, but to create a culture conducive to helping people who want to quit.
As of now, the new policy applies only during the academic year, or until June 30. This means that residential colleges, which often house people participating in academic and other programs in the summer, are not necessarily going to be smoke-free during those months.
“Yale space is occupied by a variety of programs,” Davis said. “The decision we took applies to colleges during the academic year; how or whether that will be applied during the summer session is not specifically covered by this.”
Student expressed a wide range of reactions to the new policy. While some students disagreed with aspects of the new policy, others said it has no impact on them.
“I honestly thought it was always not allowed,” Francesca Federovsky ’21 said.
Simar Chadha ’21 echoed Federovsky’s sentiment, saying that as someone who doesn’t smoke or vape, the decision “doesn’t really affect” him.
But others voiced concern over the elimination of designated smoking spaces.
“Either there should be designated areas within campus,” Naima Kalra Gupta ’21 said. “Or let the outdoors be a legitimate place [to smoke].”
The Yale Tobacco-Free Initiative was launched in November 2015.
Aakshi Chaba | firstname.lastname@example.org