Following the legalization of cannabis last October, U of T announced plans to ban smoking on all campuses by the start of 2019. According a report by the Canadian Cancer Society, the legalization of marijuana “will pose a challenge for campuses that are not 100% smoke-free, and provides further rationale for adoption of a comprehensive smoke-free policy.”
Few need a reminder of the negative impacts of smoking. Health classes from elementary school to high school extensively cover the adverse effects that smoking can have on your body. Furthermore, cigarette packages feature grotesque images, tragic stories, and startling facts that warn buyers of their harmful nature. And yet, Statistics Canada reports that smoking is still “the leading cause of premature death in Canada.”
Smokers between the ages of 18–34 account for 19.2 per cent of all smokers in Canada, making up the second largest age group for smokers. This translates to 1.5 million people, a number which has remained consistent between 2017 and 2018.
While the common perception may be that smoking poses more harm to the smoker than to those around them, smoking affects all. Non-smokers experience an almost equivalent risk as smokers, since “Most of the smoke from a lit cigarette is not inhaled by the smoker. It fills the air around the smoker. This endangers everyone in the area.”
Many students, myself included, can attest to the plumes of cigarette smoke that used to cloud the entrances of many buildings. At UTM this is particularly true of the Instructional Centre. Smokers would congregate less than the regulated nine metres away from the entrance, with puffs of grey smoke billowing from the butts of their lit cigarettes. We, the non-smokers, trekked to class with breaths held and steps hurried in order to avoid inhaling any of the over-4,000 chemicals present in the cigarettes.
Designated smoking areas
With the smoking ban and the introduction of designated smoking areas, I saw a decline in the number of smokers assembling in front of the building entrances. Moreover, students previously burdened by the smoke-filled air can now take a breath of fresh air thanks to the ban.
Conversely, for smokers who have become used to the designated smoking areas, the end of the transitional phase may raise concerns. Designated smoking areas are a decent remedy, but they unfortunately fail to address the real issue: the addictive nature of nicotine and nature of withdrawal, both of which will not dissipate like vapour with the smoke-free policy.
The physical effects of smoking
In recent weeks, a number of newspapers reported on the surge of vaping-related deaths in the US, with 34 deaths reported this year. Much of the marketing for vaping frames it as a “cessation tool,” despite there being little research on its effects on health. One user cited the switch to e-cigarettes as a measure to stave off cigarettes. This unsubstantiated narrative of e-cigarettes being a safer alternative has encouraged its popularity, especially among young people.
More frightening is the fact that more than half of the 1,604 cases of lung injuries related to e-cigarettes were under the age of 25.
The Ontario Lung Association reports that in Ontario, “13,000 people are killed annually by smoking, which translates to 36 people a day.”
The troubling and unfortunate reality is that smoking kills.
Universities exercise the right to govern student bodies when their actions negatively affect other students. While students should, and do, have the right to choose whether they smoke or not, inhaling secondhand smoke is an involuntary action and policies such as this one offer a way to protect these students.
Additionally, for university students concerned about their GPA, studies by the Tobacco Technical Assistance Consortium have found that “students who use tobacco are shown to have lower GPA’s than those who do not.”
The smoking ban seeks to further the university’s goal of a cleaner and healthier campus. However, a more in-depth study on the reasons for smoking may be beneficial to promote healthier lifestyles and address the real concerns behind smoking.
Belicia Chevolleau is a fourth-year Communication, Culture, and Information Technology student at UTM.