More than two years after the University Senate passed a ban on smoking within 20 feet of all university buildings, the smoking debate is still unresolved.
Approximately 30 people attended a USenate town hall, which focused on the potential for new smoking regulations on Columbia’s Morningside and Lamont campuses.
University Senator Francis Lee, chair of the task force on smoking policy, said that the ban has been ineffective thus far because of the lack of proper signs and multimedia informational campaigns.
At the town hall, he showed maps of Columbia’s campus and photos of cigarette butts littered within walkable distance of butt receptacles, and stressed the importance of enforcing a ban.
Some students at the town hall, though, said that enforcement was not an issue.
“As a smoker, I feel like I see non-smoking signs everywhere I go,” Andrew Grasso, GS, said. “On behalf of a lot of sentient smokers, I can say that we get it, and maybe the investment of more signs would not yield the result you think it would.”
As a possible solution, Senator Brendan O’Flaherty, an economics professor, proposed to designate specific smoking areas across campus, floating the possibility of charging for the use of such areas as a further incentive for smokers to put out their cigarettes.
But Columbia Law School professor Philip Genty said that arguments for a smoking ban are just “a moral issue disguised as a public health issue, pushed primarily by people offended by the idea of smoking.”
Genty also said that designated smoking areas run the danger of stigmatizing a portion of the University’s community.
At the meeting, Senator Kalliope Kyriakides, BC ’14, noted the success of Barnard’s no-smoking policy, but she qualified it by saying that Barnard has fewer students than Columbia, and that most Barnard students do not smoke.
Michael McNeil, director of Alice! Health Promotion, pushed the conversation in a different direction when he presented the results of a revamped program that was implemented over four years ago.
According to McNeil, 1,128 students who wanted to quit smoking have taken advantage of the free resources that Alice! provides, including nicotine patches and gum.
Eighty-five percent of Columbia students now identify as non-smokers, while daily smokers only make up a single-digit percentage of the population, McNeil noted.
Assistant Vice President of Columbia Health Services Samuel Seward said that a tobacco cessation program would be “the right way to go,” adding that “a very small number of those students would tell us the reason they decided to contemplate quitting smoking is because of the 20-feet rule.”
Rafael Castellanos, CC ’13 and a student who attended the town hall, said that restricting smoking to certain areas would be unrealistic.
“I hate smoking. I think it is despicable and disgusting,” he said. “But smokers who want to smoke are going to smoke.”