Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Campus Smoking Ban in the Works

This summer, Whitman intends to become a smoke-free campus. A draft of the policy, last revised on Feb. 7, indicates that the policy will apply to all Whitman owned properties, including its campus, rental properties, farm holdings, the Wilderness Campus, regional observatories and college vehicles. College-sponsored off-campus events will also be smoke- and tobacco-free. The text of the ban as well as the start date are not yet finalized.

There will be three designated smoking zones where people can smoke; the College has committed to build three covered concrete pads at the designated areas.  Public city sidewalks will remain legal places to smoke. The policy intends to eliminate the need for sanctions by encouraging education, but employees, vendors or visitors who repeatedly violate the policy will be asked to leave. Students with repeat violations may be subject to disciplinary action.

Sophomore Ruth Radwin said that the ban’s success will depend on where the designated smoking areas are placed. 

“[Student cooperation] depends on where the smoking zones are. I think for a lot of people, smoking is a very social activity. People care a lot about where they’re doing it. I know there are definitely certain spots around campus where people like to go to smoke,” Radwin said. 

Sarah Williams, the College’s Sustainability Manager, explained that the Office of Sustainability is encouraging the ban because of the implications it could have on the AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) Survey.

“We are just 10 points shy of getting a gold rating, and getting that gold rating helps show our community that these are the things we’re doing in the name of environmental justice,” Williams said.

The smoking ban will serve as one of several ways the College will work towards an updated rating.

Although the ban will play a role in the STARS rating, Williams also sees the issue as related to community health and waste reduction.

“We want everyone who enjoys our campus to … not have to worry about secondhand smoke. [We’re] trying to reduce litter from cigarette butts that are being thrown around because those end up in our waterways and within our ecosystems, and [we’re] trying to cut some of those bad habits before anyone gets too into them,” Williams said.

However, many non-smoker students are in disagreement with the proposed plan. First-year Joseph Segovia said that smoking should be a choice open to students.

“Even though I don’t do it, I don’t believe [that] we should ban smoking itself, because it’s a choice,” Segovia said.

Sophomore Max Barth, another non-smoker, agrees.

“I’m not pro-smoking, but am pro-being able to smoke if you want to,” Barth said.

First-year Siena Kinsley worries that making smoking taboo would increase unsafe smoking.

“It doesn’t help the students at all, but if anything, it makes it seem more taboo and more exciting this way,” Kinsley said.

Students will still be allowed to smoke in smoking areas, on public street corners and in private houses not owned by the College

Sophomore Jackson Schroeder agrees that smelling smoke in his room is crossing a line.

“If I can smell [cigarette smoke] in my room then it’s pretty annoying because that’s the place I have to myself,” Schroeder said.

However, Barth says that smoking is not a current problem on campus.

“The only time I’m around smokers is when I’m walking by them; I’m by them for a second. People don’t smoke inside … it’s just outside. It’s going to disperse into the air,” Barth said.

First-year Lily Iseminger says that smokers try to smoke in places where it won’t disturb people.

“People who smoke already make an effort to do it away from residence halls or buildings, because not only is that the rule, but it’s not the 80s- you can’t just go inside and smoke anywhere … I just really don’t see the point [of the ban],” Iseminger said.

Junior Casey Tait and Barth agree that smoking is not an issue, and that the campus’ attention to environmental policy could be better spent elsewhere.

“I feel like there’s things we could be doing that would make a bigger impact on [our] environmental footprint,” Tait said. “And I don’t think that there’s that many people that smoke on campus anyway. We should focus our attention elsewhere.”

“They could be doing something better with that money, and now they’re just putting people in different areas to smoke,” Barth said.

Radwin, on the other hand, sees lots of smoking on campus. 

“I [see a] decent amount [of smoking] because I’m friends with a lot of people who smoke cigarettes. I’d say probably like 10 people a day if I were to give it a number … it’s pretty consistent throughout all times of the day. More so in the afternoon, especially in the evening when it’s dark,” Radwin said.

Williams empathizes with students concerned that their right to smoke freely is being taken away, but she also realizes that the benefits are worth the pain.

“It would be interesting to see how it does change how students feel about the campus, but I can see it from their side of view of having an enjoyment taken away,” Williams said. “In the end, if it reduces the amount of nicotine smokers coming on campus, especially when we have so many young people and children on campus all the time, I absolutely think that that part is the win.”

Barth and Kinsley question whether the ban will actually stop students from smoking.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how they actually enforce [the smoking ban],” Barth said.

“I don’t see this changing anyone’s behavior,” Kinsley said.

Iseminger worries that the ban could disproportionately affect international students.

“I think with the amount of international students we have where the smoking age is genuinely lower elsewhere [should be considered],” Iseminger said. “If you go to a campus and all of a sudden you’re not allowed to smoke, then you’re dealing with a new environment, school and having to cut down on addictions.”

Williams is sympathetic to students who still want to smoke. As Whitman’s Sustainability Manager, she cares that Whitman still has spaces of comfort in which students can smoke. 

“It is a very nice and homey feeling thing, absolutely, and that’s one of the reasons we want to make sure that we are still providing some kind of space for people to utilize to have that enjoyment,” Williams said.

Many students worry about losing their right to smoke, and others are looking forward to less public smoking on campus. It is still too early to tell what the end result will be, as the ban’s terms are still a work in progress.


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