A group of students at UBC is working to reduce secondhand smoke as well as the prevalence of smoking itself on campus.
Students Andrea Dsouza and Isabella Nursalin want the UBC administration to adopt a stricter stance towards the issue of tobacco addiction and smoking on campus. They are pushing for the university to create smoke-free zones and specific smoking areas on campus that can keep pedestrians away from secondhand smoke.
Currently, UBC students are permitted to smoke eight metres away from any buildings or outdoors. Dsouza argues that this can lead to a large influx of second-hand smoke, which she noticed as a problem at the Totem Park Residence area.
“Smokers are advised to smoke in a central location that is in between all the houses,” she said. “But what happens is that those are also central passageways, so there’s a high traffic and high volume of people. So how do we make areas where people can smoke accessible to them but at the same time respecting the rights of others to use that space?”
Dsouza and Nursalin’s hope is to see smoke-free zones and smoking zones to address this. A challenge with this might be that if the areas are too unknown or isolated, then they may not be used at all. However, the students believe this could be combatted if awareness was raised.
Although the university often has smoking poles which indicate the eight metre distance from a building at which smokers are allowed to smoke, these are “sometimes in these obscure locations and nobody knows about them,” Dsouza points out.
Dsouza and Nursalin sent a series of letters to the UBC Administration to inform them about their concerns and ideas. They also requested permission from the university to put up a series of posters around campus to raise awareness about the harmful effects of smoking.
“These posters will serve as a reminder to smokers of the effects of smoking and secondhand smoke. You should be considerate to others and also yourself because it will affect your health tremendously as well,” said Nursalin.
In time, Dsouza and Nursalin want to see UBC become a smoke-free campus like Dalhousie and Acadia. However, they recognize that the rights of both smokers and nonsmokers must be acknowledged and that UBC would have to gradually move into this policy rather than implement it immediately.
Although the rules may vary between universities, generally smoke-free campuses prohibit smoking on university property — those who want to smoke must do so off university property. Canadian Cancer Society Health Promotion Coordinator Alicia Perry argues that going smoke-free entirely is ultimately the best route for a university to take to combat smoking.
“University’s a critical point in a young adult’s life and many lifestyle habits are developed at this time. We know that the smoking prevalence amongst this young adult population is the highest,” she said. “Going smoke free can help create that supportive environment for people who are looking to quit and also protect those from secondhand smoke.”
Although smoking is not nearly as common as it was decades ago, Perry says it continues to be quite prevalent on campus.
“Smoking is still an issue and we need to keep advocating, keep working, keep educating people on the harmful effects of tobacco and protecting those from secondhand smoke and supporting those who are smoking to quit and cut back.”