Opinion: UTM students take a breath of fresh air thanks to institution-wide smoking ban

Transition period, designated smoking areas lead to a cleaner campus, healthier students

Opinion: UTM students take a breath of fresh air thanks to institution-wide smoking ban

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.

Governing bodies

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.

U of T’s smoking ban was ineffectively implemented

Absence of designated smoking areas, cigarette disposals render the policy inconvenient, creates litter

U of T’s smoking ban was ineffectively implemented

It has been over nine months since U of T’s smoking ban was implemented. Announced in November, and implemented this past January, the ban was introduced with the intention of creating a healthier campus, away from the harmful effects of first and secondhand smoke. While the rule is meant to protect people’s health, it is ineffective as it currently stands.

Designated smoking areas

It would be a good idea to incorporate smoking areas on campus because they encourage people to smoke in a more secluded space, where non-smokers are less likely to inhale harmful smoke.

Unlike the university’s Scarborough and Mississauga campuses, UTSG does not have designated smoking areas. It is likely that administrators believe there is no need for such spaces due to the campus’ proximity to public streets, where people can legally smoke.

According to the campus policy, smokers must walk from their classes to off-campus areas to consume tobacco or marijuana. Most often, they congregate on the sidewalks of notoriously busy public streets such as St. George, Hoskin, and Harbord. These sidewalks are city property and do not fall under the university’s jurisdiction.

This affects all members of the UTSG community, both smokers and non-smokers. Smokers who have classes in locations such as King’s College Circle waste a lot of time getting to an off-campus sidewalk for a smoke break. This could affect their ability to get to class on time if they are scheduled back-to-back.

Students who live in residence may put their safety at risk by going to a public space alone for a smoke at night. Worst of all, because the ban gives smokers no choice but to light up on the street, passersby now routinely inhale more secondhand smoke on their walks between classes.

A solution that would accommodate everyone would be to designate smoking areas on campus, which would encourage smokers to get their fix in a safe and secluded area.

Cigarette disposal receptacles

UTSG used to have ashtrays, but ever since the smoking ban, there has been nowhere for faculty and students to responsibly dispose of their butts. Recently, I noticed that outdoor garbage cans around campus have begun sporting a sticker that suggest that cigarette butts are not permitted in the trash.

These garbage cans are the only ones anywhere near campus. If cigarettes cannot be disposed of in the garbage, smokers who consume tobacco on the public streets beside campus are more inclined to throw them on the ground. The lack of places to discard cigarettes at the moment will lead to an eventual build-up of litter on public sidewalks, mere metres away from university buildings.

The university’s Mississauga campus is a prime example of positive change in terms of cigarette littering. Currently, the campus is working with a company called TerraCycle to “recycle waste from outdoor cigarette butt collectors on campus.” The project depends on smokers disposing of their butts in receptacles placed around campus.

TerraCycle receptacles would be useful at the downtown campus, as there needs to be a sustainable way for smokers to dispose of their butts.

This was U of T’s first year banning smoking, so it’s understandable that some of the details surrounding the ban have not been worked out yet. A compromise involving the installation of designated smoking areas and cigarette butt receptacles would benefit everyone. Hopefully, the university will reflect on the way things have unfolded since the ban, and move to accommodate all faculty and students.

Agata Mociani is a second-year English student at New College.

Proposed smoking ban will not affect federated colleges

USMC, Trinity, Victoria in process of creating own policies

Proposed smoking ban will not affect federated colleges

U of T’s proposed smoke-free policy — which will ban most forms of smoking effective January 1 — will not apply to the three federated colleges of University of St. Michael’s College (USMC), the University of Trinity College, and Victoria University, though they are all in the process of creating similar smoking bans.

U of T’s policy also will not apply to U of T-affiliated Toronto School of Theology (TST)’s Knox College, Regis College, St. Augustine’s Seminary, and Wycliffe College. These institutions are independent of the University of Toronto Act, meaning that they have their own governance processes.


USMC is currently undergoing a consultation process on a smoking ban before a recommendation is made to the university’s Collegium, its governing body, in the spring.

According to President David Sylvester, USMC has consulted senior administration, St. Michael’s College Student Union leaders, staff, and faculty thus far. They are also finalizing a community survey.

“We’re not going to invite U of T into our consultation; we weren’t part of theirs… It really is up to us to talk about this and consult with our community,” said Sylvester in an interview with The Varsity.

A smoke-free policy would cover all of USMC’s grounds, including St. Basil’s Collegiate Church. Loretto College Women’s Residence is a separate property, so a separate policy would have to be implemented.

“Whatever policy we develop would include all of our buildings, all of our lands. Of course, like U of T and the other [federated colleges], we’re intersected with public streets, so it complicates matters,” said Sylvester.

Sylvester added that USMC will review U of T’s policy to ensure that its own will not miss important considerations, such as accommodations, and guaranteed that it would allow smoking for ceremonial and medicinal purposes.

Victoria University

According to Victoria University’s Bursar and Chief Administrative Officer Ray deSouza, the administration is consulting with students, faculty, and staff but “there is no time line at this point.” The final policy would eventually have to go to the Board of Regents for a final resolution. 

In an email to The Varsity, Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC) President Jayde Jones wrote that VUSAC has not been involved in drafting or consultations regarding the policy, although representatives have had discussions with Victoria University administration.

“It is important to recognize that students living with addiction are disproportionately members of marginalized communities… In light of this, we are advocating for Vic to develop permanent, accessible, safe, and comfortable smoking spaces on campus,” wrote Jones.

Jones said that Dean of Students Kelley Castle told student representatives that smoking cessation programs would be made available on Victoria University’s campus. deSouza added that smoking accommodations for Indigenous ceremony and medicinal purposes would be permitted.

University of Trinity College

Trinity College’s Director of Communications Young Um confirmed that a smoke-free policy at Trinity College is under consideration, and that the college “will be working through [its] own governance process at the Senate and Board of Trustees.”

Um did not comment on whether Trinity has consulted with U of T over its policy or what the expected timeline for the policy’s possible implementation is.

The Board of Trustees is composed of 28 members of the college and is responsible for approving policy recommendations made by the Senate. The Senate is concerned with the establishment of academic policy.

TST colleges

The TST is a U of T-affiliated consortium of theological colleges, including USMC, the University of Trinity College, and Emmanuel College. Each college under the TST has its own governance structure and would be responsible for implementing its own smoke-free policy.

Knox College, located near Convocation Hall at UTSG, and St. Augustine’s Seminary, located in Scarborough, both have existing smoke-free policies.

Senior management at Wycliffe College wrote to The Varsity, “As with most of our policies, [Wycliffe] will follow the University of Toronto’s lead in implementing a Smoke Free Policy.” Implementation would go through Wycliffe’s own governance process, including its Health and Safety Committee.

Regis College is also likely to follow U of T’s policy, although the urgency of implementing such a policy is unclear. In an email to The Varsity, Regis College President Thomas Worcester wrote, “Smoking of tobacco is a really non-issue at Regis, and seems likely a matter from the last century! The battle to eliminate smoking from campus has been largely won, and a while ago.”


Speaking at the Business Board meeting on November 26, Vice-President Human Resources & Equity Kelly Hannah-Moffat said that enforcement of U of T’s smoke-free policy would primarily focus on educating the community about the risks of smoking and secondhand smoke.

In a statement to The Varsity, U of T spokesperson Elizabeth Church wrote, “Training is planned for campus police with a view to educating our community across our three campuses. We will work with our college partners when the details of their policies are in place.”

At USMC, Sylvester likewise emphasized that enforcement of a policy would focus on education. However, legal issues that may arise in enforcement of the policy would still fall to Campus Police rather than MCOR, the private security firm that USMC employs.

Since no draft of a policy at Victoria University has yet been released, Jones said it is unclear whether VUSAC’s concerns, including enforcement, will be addressed.

The TST did not respond to a request for comment.

Editor’s Note (December 19, 7:20 pm): The article has been updated to remove a statement Jones made incorrectly about a planned timeline at Victoria.

Business Board approves smoke-free policy, real estate strategy

Smoke-free policy to move to Executive Committee for endorsement, real estate strategy to increase amenities

Business Board approves smoke-free policy, real estate strategy

The Business Board has voted to concur with the recommendation of the University Affairs Board (UAB) to enforce a smoking ban at U of T and to approve the university’s Four Corners Strategy in principle. These were two of the 14 items on the agenda for the board’s second meeting of the 2018–2019 academic year, held at Simcoe Hall on November 26.

As part of Governing Council, the Business Board is responsible for monitoring the cost-effectiveness of the university’s investments and for approving its business-related policies.

Smoke-free policy

The Business Board was the fourth stage of governance for the university’s proposed smoke-free policy, following recommendation by the UAB on November 19 and information sessions at the UTSC and UTM Campus Councils on November 20 and 21 respectively. The policy must now be endorsed and forwarded by Governing Council’s Executive Committee on December 4 and approved by Governing Council on December 13 in order to take effect.

Vice-President Human Resources & Equity Kelly Hannah-Moffat presented the item to the board.

If approved by Governing Council, the smoke-free policy would ban most forms of smoking at the university’s three campuses effective January 1. Exceptions to the policy are Indigenous ceremonies and medical requirements.

The policy would not apply to the university’s three federated colleges — the University of St. Michael’s College, the University of Trinity College, and Victoria University.

“I’ve talked to all three head provosts and presidents of the federated universities. They all anticipate going the same direction, although they are working through their own governance processes with respect to it so they may not go at the same time. I expect they will also be using similar signage to that which we are using,” Hannah-Moffat said. She added that affiliated institutions “immediately proximate to [U of T] like Knox College… are going to adopt [their own smoke-free policies].”

“Enforcement of this policy will be first and foremost about educating our community and also talking to our community about the risks of second-hand smoke and the risks of smoking,” Hannah-Moffat added. The university will continue to provide staff, faculty, and students smoking cessation support.

All present voting assessors at the meeting voted in favour of the item, meaning that the board concurs with the approval passed by the UAB.

Real estate strategy

The board also unanimously approved the Four Corners Strategy. According to Vice-President University Operations Scott Mabury, the strategy has been in development for around four years. It will replace the existing real estate strategy implemented by the university in 2007 and act as a framework to guide the university when investing in new real estate projects.

“We’re calling this ‘Four Corners’ because we want it to cover all corners of the university, wherever they may be,” Mabury said. The strategy will be updated to include the university’s properties in the Huron-Sussex neighbourhood, as well as the land housing the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health that it bought last year. He added that the federated colleges will not be included, as “practically speaking, they run their [own] affairs.”

According to the report presented to the board, the strategy’s goals are “providing quality amenity spaces” and “generating financial returns directed to the operating fund through income of its improved properties.”

Mabury said that amenity spaces will include “innovation spaces, residential [spaces] to improve our ability to attract and retain our faculty and senior staff, [and] retail [spaces] to enliven and engage more effectively with the surrounding city as well as provide services for the academic community.”

A main goal is to expand available housing to faculty members, staff, and students. Mabury cited the graduate student waiting list of over 1,000 and the loss of senior staff and faculty due to a lack of available housing. “The goal here is to [make] the residential side respond — and it’s a dynamic situation and it’s not constant where that demand is.”

Other items

The in camera session comprised of the quarterly list of donations of $250,000 or more, administrative assessors’ reports, compensation increases for various staff and faculty, and approval of the membership of the board’s Striking Committee.

Hannah-Moffat also presented the Human Resources & Equity Annual Report of 2017–2018 and the Report on Employment Equity of 2017–2018, which include the university’s initiatives to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Proposed smoking ban one step closer to full approval after passing at University Affairs Board

Ban described as “educative” over disciplinary, few details on enforcement

Proposed smoking ban one step closer to full approval after passing at University Affairs Board

The University Affairs Board (UAB) voted to pass the smoking ban at its November 19 meeting, moving the policy one step closer to full approval at the next Governing Council meeting on December 13. Cigarettes, cannabis, and vaping will all be covered in this ban, but certain smoking areas will be designated in the interim.

One area of concern that many attendees raised during the meeting was how the ban would be enforced. Vice-President Human Resources & Equity Kelly Hannah-Moffat said that the ban would be primarily an educative policy, not a disciplinary one.

A primary focus of the policy is to address the issue of secondhand smoke, and the effects it can have on students, even ones who don’t smoke.

University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Vice-President University Affairs Josh Grondin agreed that the policy was a step in the right direction, but urged the UAB to take more time to review this policy.

Last week, Grondin created an online forum where students can give feedback on the smoking ban. One major concern that students had, according to Grondin, was its effect on marginalized students.

Many people were concerned that Campus Police would target students by their ethnicity. Grondin also pointed out that many students smoke cigarettes or cannabis as a stress reliever, and vaping should not be dismissed as an alternative to cigarettes.

Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students (APUS) Vice-President Internal Susan Froom also had many concerns about the policy.

She pointed out that the UTSU, APUS, and possibly many workers’ unions had not been consulted about the policy, and recommended that Governing Council take more time to review areas in which the policy could be improved.

She also pointed out that the designated smoking areas at UTM and UTSC were few and far between, and that students and workers may have to walk up to a kilometre just to smoke. These concerns were also raised at the UTM and UTSC Campus Council meetings.

The next stage of approval will be at the Business Board meeting on November 26.

Smokers: goodbye or good riddance?

Two students debate the potential smoking ban at U of T

Smokers: goodbye or good riddance?

On November 9, the University of Toronto announced that it will implement a smoking ban on all three campuses, effective January 1. Smoking tobacco and cannabis, as well as the use of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices, will no longer be permitted. Exceptions will be made for Indigenous ceremonies and medical use.

Two contributors debate the merits of the policy.

A welcome change

This ban could not come soon enough. It is high time that the university protects its students, staff, and facilities from the effects of smoking.

Kelly Hannah-Moffat, U of T’s Vice-President Human Resources & Equity, said that the purpose of the updated smoking policy is to “ensure that we have a healthy campus.” Taking into consideration the negative consequences of first and secondhand tobacco and cannabis smoke, as well as the cleanliness of the campus, the policy change is set to make a positive impact on the university.

In 2017, Statistics Canada found that almost one in five Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34 are currently tobacco smokers. The health effects of tobacco smoke are well-documented but are nonetheless worth mentioning. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, smoking causes approximately 30 per cent of all cancer deaths and 85 per cent of all lung cancer deaths each year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco is responsible for more deaths per year than HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.

The effects of smoking extend far beyond the user — especially harming the environment and bystanders. Research shows that there is no safe level of secondhand tobacco smoke. It contains both mainstream smoke, which is exhaled from the smoker’s mouth, and sidestream smoke, which is emitted from the end of the cigarette.

Sidestream smoke is actually more toxic than the smoke inhaled by the smoker; it contains smaller particles, which make their way into the lungs more easily.

Around two-thirds of the smoke emitted from a cigarette can be inhaled by anyone in the area, and this inhalation is involuntary and dangerous. According to the American Lung Association, tobacco smoke contains about 4,000 toxic chemicals, 40 of which have known links to cancer. The effects of the smoke can be measured within five minutes of exposure, and all too often, students do not get to choose whether they are exposed.

Over 800 non-smokers die from lung cancer and heart disease due to exposure to secondhand smoke every year in Canada, and shielding U of T’s community from this preventable phenomenon is of paramount importance. Ridding the campus of this damaging practice will protect both students and faculty, and hopefully create a safer and healthier environment for all.

The recent legalization of recreational cannabis in Ontario played a part in the university’s discussion of the smoking ban. Though not as severe as tobacco smoke, cannabis still has negative effects on both first and secondhand smokers.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, firsthand cannabis smokers exhibit significant airway inflammation, increased airway resistance, and lung hyperinflation, and those who smoke regularly report more symptoms of chronic bronchitis. What has been found about the effects of secondhand cannabis smoke is not promising.

A study conducted on rats found that secondhand exposure to cannabis smoke negatively affected blood vessels as much as tobacco smoke, and the effects lasted for a longer period. Just as with tobacco smoke, the university has a responsibility to minimize cannabis smoke risks experienced by its community on campus.

Keeping the university hospitable will be a welcome consequence of the ban. Cigarette waste is a substantial issue on campuses that permit smoking.

A project undertaken at two universities in San Diego showed the scope of cigarette waste on campus. In an hour, volunteers at both universities managed to collect over 30,000 cigarette butts, averaging almost 400 per volunteer. This kind of saturation can make outdoor spaces unpleasant and off-putting when coupled with secondhand smoke.

This policy is not meant to punish smokers. After all, the administration will work to make the transition easier for smokers on all campuses by offering to create temporary smoking areas and making smoking cessation services available.

Rather, the policy change simply aims to make U of T more safe, healthy, and hospitable. It will work to improve our public outdoor spaces and make a positive and longlasting change on campus.

Ori Gilboa is a first-year Humanities student at Victoria College.

Policy or prejudice?

When I first caught wind of the Trudeau government’s intentions to legalize cannabis during the 2015 federal election, I will admit that I was not a fan. I have not and actively choose not to engage with any form of smoking. But today, I go about my daily life unhindered by the legality of cannabis. I have made peace with my prejudice on the substance.

I am therefore nothing but puzzled when I look at the smoking policy set to take effect in the new year. As the university is an apparent defender of personal freedoms, the decision to implement this policy is overreaching and unrealistic. The ban take away the personal choice of students, staff, and any other person on campus to smoke.

Not to mention, regulations on outdoor smoking are already enforced by the Ontario government. The regulation addresses the legalities of smoking in venues such as patios, playgrounds, and outside areas.

While many studies have concluded that these activities pose risks to the user, controlling, instead of banning, outdoor smoking already reduces the health impacts on the general public.

I worry that Campus Police will be preoccupied with cannabis-related complaints. But campus safety should be one of the most important priorities for the university. Walk-safe programs, adequate lighting, and nighttime security are pillars to working toward a safe campus for all. Campus Police works with the university on this, in addition to responding to many calls dealing with various assaults.

In its 2016 Annual Report, the police service noted that it uses campus resources wherever possible, but sometimes outside resources are required for training and development. I hope the new ban will not put a strain on the work that the police do every day.

After decades of cigarettes being smoked on campus, it is also curious that the university has suddenly decided to implement this smoking ban. I cannot help but notice the timely fashion of the policy in relation to the recent legalization of cannabis.

For a university that is working to erode the existence of stigmas on campus — through education campaigns on mental health or LGBTQ+ issues, for example — it seems to me that the stigma around cannabis is the cornerstone to one of the most controversial policies introduced to date.

In addition to already infringing on personal choice, the university seems to disregard the practicality of the ban. Make no mistake: this policy is not pragmatic. U of T’s three campuses make up hundreds of acres of land. UTSG alone includes land from the intersection of Bloor Street West and Spadina Avenue to Bay Street and College Street. The university is often an escape from the bustling city that is Toronto.

And the campus is not a gated kingdom; many members of the public pass through campus every day. It would therefore not be realistic to prohibit smoking in this environment.

We also need to acknowledge what is being asked of those who decide to smoke: if you choose to smoke, you must travel off-campus. But it’s not clear where exactly off-campus would be. If a student were to be in the middle of King’s College Circle, it would be inconvenient for them to walk 10–15 minutes just to smoke for two minutes. It could also have a clear impact on their punctuality to class and extracurricular commitments.

It seems that the administration did not account for the experiences of a student who smokes when deciding to roll out this policy. As the policy moves forward, I would expect a certain level of compromise: designated smoking areas, to say the least.

Our time, money, and attention should focus on the student experience. Ostracizing students for their personal choice to smoke is not a step in an equitable direction.

We should consult with students who do not smoke and consult with students who do. Bringing diverse voices to the table that appreciate the input of each other will live out the equitable practices we preach. While the idea of smoking may be unattractive to those who do not engage in it, like myself, I will not allow my preference to trump another’s agency.

Andrea Chiappetta is a second-year Political Science, American Studies, and History student at Woodsworth College.

U of T to ban all forms of smoking on campus in 2019

Move follows pledge made in September 2017

U of T to ban all forms of smoking on campus in 2019

The University of Toronto has officially decided to ban smoking on all three campuses by January 1, 2019. This includes smoking tobacco or cannabis, as well as vaping.

This will fulfil a September 2017 pledge, which was made shortly after McMaster University announced that they will ban smoking on their property effective January 1, 2018.

The existing smoking policy dates back to 1995 — 11 years before it became illegal to smoke in bars and pubs in Ontario.

The university will allow each campus to designate “smoking spots,” which will be decided based on how far away they are from main buildings. These smoking spots will be temporary, however, as the university aims to move toward a smoke-free environment. Exceptions will be made for Indigenous ceremonies and medical requirements.

“Our existing smoking policy is decades old and recent changes by the provincial government that allow smoking of cannabis in public spaces may increase the risk of exposure to second-hand smoke,” Kelly Hannah-Moffat, Vice-President Human Resources and Equity stated.

“We feel this change is consistent with our goal to have a healthy campus environment.”

The policy still needs to go through Governing Council in order to be fully approved. If this occurs, U of T will join 65 other universities and colleges across Canada that have banned smoking.

University of Toronto plans to ban smoking on campus

No set date for implementation

University of Toronto plans to ban smoking on campus

The fuse is lit for plans to quit: the University of Toronto is beginning the process of banning smoking on campus.

In the same week that McMaster University announced it will ban all smoking on its property starting January 1, 2018, U of T is confirming that it has plans to do the same.

“U of T does have similar plans underway,” Althea Blackburn-Evans, Director of Media Relations at U of T, told The Varsity. “It’s really early stages, and so there are still a lot of discussions continuing. It’s really premature to talk about what the plan will look like in the end, and when it’ll be finalized.”

The plan to ban smoking began as a conversation between the Office of Health and Safety and in Human Resources, with the initial drive being to update the university’s outdated smoking policy. The policy dates back to 1995, Blackburn-Evans said — about 11 years before it became illegal to smoke in bars and pubs in Ontario, and back before marijuana dispensaries dotted the downtown core.

Marijuana, too, plays a part in the university’s slow-burn discussion on a smoking ban. “We are watching closely for updates on the federal government’s proposed legislation,” Blackburn-Evans said, “because however the province and the municipalities implement it, it will have implications on whatever we decide to do here.”

It remains to be seen how a smoking ban could be enforced on, for instance, the St. George campus, which includes a considerable chunk of Toronto’s downtown core: from Bay Street to Spadina Avenue, and Bloor Street to College Street.

“This is a good move on the university’s part,” the President of the University of Toronto Students’ Union, Mathias Memmel, told The Varsity. “At the risk of stating the obvious, smoking is unambiguously bad and should be discouraged.”

Some parts of the St. George campus are privately owned by U of T, making these areas subject to university policy. However, some larger thoroughfares include public roadways and sidewalks, which may not be subject to such a ban.

Blackburn-Evans made it clear that there are a lot of things that are still up in the air — it remains to be seen whether smoke on campus will be among them.