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Up in smoke

By Catherine Burgess

Memorial University’s smoking policy is up for review this year. Through all the debate surrounding the soon to be updated policy, something that I, as a non-smoker, had never considered came to light: smokers’ rights.

Unbeknownst to me, there exists such a thing. Of course people have the right to smoke, but the rights surrounding when and where the act is acceptable is a concept that I, and surely many other non-smokers, had never taken the time to seriously think about until my smoking peers began a heated debate about it.
I am not trying to empathize with smokers, but simply noting that this rights issue is stoking the fire for a debate that will only continue to move in circles and never reach a conclusion.

I imagine that smoking rights are becoming somewhat constrained, based on the limits around where one can smoke. Smoking in indoor public spaces is banned and the outdoor buffer zones in front of entranceways are continually growing in size and number.

So what’s going to happen to the right to smoke after the university’s policy review? The College of the North Atlantic with its 17 campuses and all Eastern Health properties have banned smoking from their grounds, and it seems likely that Memorial will follow suit at some point in the future.

As a non-smoker, of course I feel that it would be grand if I could walk across the Memorial campus and not encounter a single puff of second-hand smoke. The evidence of the harmful effects of smoking is overwhelming, and so it is slightly bizarre that the university has not already implemented a drastic change in its smoking policy.

While it’s currently uncertain whether Memorial will ban smoking on campus altogether (though inevitable in the long run), it would be an improvement if the designated smoking areas were at least moved away from the doors and windows of the buildings on campus. Several government buildings have set up sheltered gazebos away from building entranceways where smokers can congregate without their smoke aggravating the non-smokers. Perhaps this is something that Memorial could look into should the university choose to keep smoking privileges on campus.

Memorial should take a cue from some of the other institutions that have made recent changes to their smoking policy. Will the smokers’ right to smoke be no more? Will non-smokers get the clean-air campus they want? Whatever the end result of the revised policy, the university should make a decision and apply it across all its campuses, and soon.

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