By Nicole Beaver
This year, Concordia President Tim Loreman enacted the Concordia University of Edmonton Smoking Ban. It is adapted from the Okanagan Charter, which was created in 2015 and then initiated in 2016. The Okanagan Charter’s mission is that, “post-secondary schools health into all aspects of campus culture and lead health promotion action and collaboration locally and globally,” By doing so, “health-promoting universities [enhance] the success of our institutions; [they] create campus cultures of compassion, well-being, equity and social justice. improve the health of the people who live, learn, work, play and love on our campuses, and strengthen the ecological, social and economic sustainability of our communities and wider society.” Other universities and colleges that have adopted this charter include Mount Royal University, the University of Calgary, the University of Lethbridge, and Kings Western University. A full list of the universities and more details on the charter can be found at https://healthpromotingcampuses.squarespace.com/okanagan-charter.
While it means well enough, this ban in correlation to the charter is a colloquial double-edged sword. With roughly 5.2 million people smoking either daily or occasionally (Statistics Canada, Smoking – 2016), tobacco and vaping have become a mainstream addiction in our society. In Alberta, an estimated 18.8% (or approximately 559,300) of Albertans smoke tobacco (AlbertaQuits, Tobacco Use Statistics). With the legalization of marijuana only a month away, this becomes a controversial issue that ultimately has no clear answer.
Beneficially, this ban will mean that those with pre-existing lung conditions may have less triggers for their symptoms. The secondhand smoke or vapor emitted can exacerbate the symptoms of those who deal with asthma, according to WebMd’s article. “[It may be even more harmful than actually smoking. That’s because the smoke that burns off the end of a cigar or cigarette contains more harmful substances (tar, carbon monoxide, nicotine, and others) than the smoke inhaled by the smoker.” It also could be a surprising aid to those who want to quit the habit. A U.S. study done by Indiana University compared their smoking ban with nearby Purdue University (where smoking was allowed provided that people were 30 feet away from buildings). They found that, comparatively with Purdue, those who lived with the ban had a marked change in their attitudes about smoking and their smoking habits, while things at Purdue stayed mostly the same. However, it should be noted that the ban wasn’t strictly enforced. Dong-Chul Seo, who headed the experiment also noted that their research subjects were volunteers and were largely white Midwesterners, “so caution is warranted in generalization to college students in other regions.” There is, of course, a variety of aides and therapy available to those who are addicted who want to quit.
It should be noted that, despite the possibility of less secondhand smoke polluting the air and more pressure to quit on the student body, those who do not want to give up their habit are caught in an uncomfortable position. For instance, this ban is also placed as a penalty against those staying in Residence this year. If someone who resides in the dormitories is caught smoking or vaping on campus, they will have their Residence Contract revoked and be forced to leave. It also puts those in Residence and outside of it in the position to go elsewhere to smoke. Their options include the nearby residential area or the River Valley. The River Valley is the largest urban park in Canada, with over 160 km of maintained pathways (Edmonton.ca, River Valley). However, as many who have lived in urban areas know, it is a common area for the homeless and those with substance abuse problems to reside. It is actually not safe to go into the Valley at night as it is mainly unlit. As well, with the days growing shorter, risks of dangerous encounters within the Valley go up. There is also a consequential issue regarding littering; cigarette butts are quite common and quite ugly to behold. The neighboring homeowners will probably not appreciate cigarette butts on their sidewalks or in their lawns, or secondhand smoke near any children living in the area. Our university is, after all, situated right next to an elementary school. This could potentially cause conflict if the number of students whose habit cannot be stifled is more than a dozen. Dr. Loreman reassures that if it becomes an issue, he is willing to work with the city.
It should be noted as well that, while the ban is meant to help those with asthma and other breathing issues, smoke is not the only thing affecting people who have that problem. They will not be safe from those who choose to wear strong-smelling perfume or cologne. It can still trigger symptoms: “Strong perfumes are a common trigger for asthma sufferers, and there are people for whom it is the main source of their sudden attacks.” (Painful Perfume, Asthma Centre – Everyday Health). Finally, while the ban may be strict, some students may still choose to break this ban. No restriction is without those who decide that they are above it or it is unfair. We may still, as a school, smell remnants of vapor, tobacco and marijuana. Just because there is a ban does not mean that the issue of smoking is instantly resolved.
What does the student body have to say about this ban? Approximately 50 students were interviewed regarding whether it was a good idea, a bad idea, or they had a neutral opinion. Out of them, only 6 had a negative opinion on the smoking ban. One such student, who wishes to remain anonymous has stated that “It’s stupid! Why should people dictate what we, as grown adults, can choose for ourselves? Like, I get secondhand smoke and [such], but we can go smoke outside!” On the other hand, twenty-three students thought that it was a good idea, one anonymous student stated that they “contracted pneumonia from inhaling secondhand smoke. [I] was ill before, but due to the secondhand smoke from the smoking pit, it got worse.” Another anonymous student also added that this ban, with marijuana becoming legal October 17th, would help stop others “not going to class high” and that “those who don’t want to smell it won’t have to.” Yet another student, Lisa, claimed that with this ban, forcing people to stifle their habit would help them, “save money, and for a university student, that’s a smart thing to do!” The rest of those interviewed had ultimately neutral opinions on the matter. They did not smoke or no longer smoked, or understood both arguments regarding the ban and could not decide which position to take.
In summary it would appear the smoking ban is held not only in neutral opinion by the general student populace, but also in positive favor. If this ban is to work, apparently we are to see a decline in those with smoking addictions on our campus. In time, we will see if this general consensus continues to hold ground as the school year goes by.