A University Senate task force on smoking policy has formally concluded what many students already suspected—that Columbia’s partial smoking ban isn’t being enforced.
After a contentious debate, the senate voted almost two years ago to ban smoking within 20 feet of all buildings on the Morningside Heights campus. But many students have continued to smoke just outside of buildings, unaware of or unfazed by the policy.
The chairs of the task force—School of Nursing professor Elaine Larson and College of Physicians and Surgeons professor Francis Lee—will present the task force’s findings to the full senate at today’s plenary, which is being held at 1:15 p.m. in 501 Schermerhorn. The task force found that cigarette butts “were frequently present” within a few feet of the entrances to several buildings, and that very few buildings had any “no smoking” signs posted.
“We concluded that the ‘no smoking within 20 feet of buildings’ policy is poorly implemented across the Morningside campus and not at all implemented at the Lamont campus,” the task force wrote in its report. The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory was not mentioned in the senate’s 20-foot smoking ban resolution, which only referred to the Morningside Heights campus.
The smoking debate has been a constant presence in the senate since the spring of 2009. The body instituted the 20-foot rule in December 2010, but several senators have continued to push for a full smoking ban since then, calling the current policy unenforceable. One of those senators, Business School professor Mark Cohen, nearly brought a full ban to a vote last fall, before being advised that his resolution would have to go through committee first.
Last semester, the Executive Committee referred the issue of smoking policy to the External Relations and Research Policy Committee. The senate’s 20-foot smoking ban resolution stipulated that the policy would be reviewed within two years, and the external relations committee decided to follow that timeline, setting up the task force that is now releasing its conclusions.
While the task force recommended ways for the administration to enforce the current policy, its members stopped short of recommending a new policy. Implementation of the 20-foot rule “will require multiple strategies, the use of all available means of communication, and ongoing reinforcement,” the group wrote, recommending enhanced signage, multimedia campaigns, and ongoing assessment of adherence to the policy.