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

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.”

Enforcement

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.

The heart-stopping truth about smoking cessation drug

U of T prof finds varenicline to have adverse side effects

The heart-stopping truth about smoking cessation drug

As of 2014, approximately 5.4 million Canadians smoked daily or occasionally. The fight for smoking cessation has largely been made possible by varenicline, a prescription drug used to reduce the effects of nicotine.

A recent study spearheaded by Andrea Gershon, Lung Health Lead at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and an associate professor in U of T’s Department of Medicine, pointed to some alarming side effects of varenicline.

According to the study, the use of varenicline is associated with an increased number of serious cardiovascular events in the 12 weeks after starting varenicline use. The study reported a 34 per cent increase in risk of cardiovascular events in patients who had previously experienced cardiovascular episodes and a 12 per cent increase in those who had not.

In this study, serious cardiovascular events referred to heart-related conditions such as heart attacks, insufficient blood flow to the heart, heart failure, ischemic heart disease and stroke, abnormal heart beats, and peripheral vascular disease. The researchers also looked for possible neuropsychiatric effects of varenicline, but no serious effects were observed.

Approximately four patients out of 1,000 experience critical varenicline-induced cardiovascular events. Yet the difference between relative increased risk and absolute increased risk should be noted. “If the risk to begin with is pretty low, then [even with a high relative risk,] the absolute risk will also be low,” said Gershon.

The study was observational in nature, and Gershon took advantage of extensive patient data that was at her disposal. “Every time somebody goes to see a doctor or goes to the hospital, someone or some institution gets paid, and all that information is collected in the large health administrative databases.”

This data, run through the ICES, was collected prior to and after patients went on the medication, and then it was analyzed to determine the rate of incidence of cardiovascular events in patients.

This method was relatively beneficial due to the large sample size, which reduced bias. In general, using observational data can save time and money and increase the study’s scope.

There are, however, limitations — observational studies cannot determine causation. Observational data cannot determine whether patients were using other drugs to help quit smoking, or whether the patients quit smoking while taking varenicline.

Gershon stressed that this study addressed limitations commonly associated with an observational study, and she said that the paper underwent “a very strict peer review” process.

Though the study’s authors suggest that more research is required to confirm their findings, until evidence emerges to prove otherwise, it can be assumed that varenicline does increase the risk of cardiovascular events.

In a 2013 review published by the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group, varenicline was found to be the most effective drug for smoking cessation. Smokers were more than twice as likely to quit on varenicline than on a placebo, making it a commonly prescribed smoking cessation aid.

“I think quitting smoking is really important… the benefits of quitting smoking outweigh the risks of this medication,” said Gershon. “It’s complicated — just because somebody takes varenicline, that doesn’t mean they’ll be successful in quitting smoking. How motivated are they? How committed are they? What are their risk factors? It’s hardly an easy decision.”

Every patient is different and extraneous factors such as being predisposed to adverse cardiovascular events will influence how they will react to varenicline.