On October 20, the University Health and Safety Committee (UHSC) began discussion on a review of McGill’s recently updated smoking policy, which may eventually include a campus-wide smoking ban. The review comes approximately one month after the committee extended the policy to cover e-cigarettes in the ban on smoking in certain areas of campus.
According to the current smoking policy, which complies with provincial law, smoking is prohibited within nine metres of doors and windows leading into McGill buildings. Last winter semester, Redpath terrace was designated as a smoke-free area. The recent addendum, effective September 22, includes e-cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes, in the ban.
E-cigarettes are personal vapourizers that commonly produce nicotine vapour rather than the smoke of conventional cigarettes. Associate Director of University Safety Wayne Wood told The Daily that the policy was revised following inquiries from staff about whether e-cigarettes were included in the ban.
Music Senator and Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) representative on the UHSC Maximillion Scebba spoke to The Daily about the addendum. “I honestly was pretty surprised that the policy didn’t already include e-cigarettes,” he said.
However, some students didn’t agree that e-cigarettes should be treated the same way as cigarettes.
“Extending e-cigarettes, which are supposed to be kind of a non-chemically-oppressive way to smoke cigarettes, as being subsumed under the [smoking restrictions], that just kind of defeats the point of people smoking e-cigarettes,” said U3 student Alice Feldman.
It’s possible that even bigger changes may be in store for the smoking policy. Scebba noted that “some discussion of a blanket ban of smoking on campus” was a possibility for future UHSC meetings.
“[The committee] did seem quite eager,” he said. “They’ve noticed that some universities in Canada […] have banned smoking across all campuses.”
When asked about a campus-wide ban, however, Wood replied, “I’m not aware that the UHSC is considering a campus-wide ban at the moment. Someone may have mentioned it at the last meeting, but it is not on our current agenda.”
In the meantime, Scebba says the committee will meet twice over the next two months and discuss the policy.
“It will consist of an evaluation of the resources the University has at its disposal to enforce the current policy, with the goal of determining ways in which it can be improved,” Scebba told The Daily in an email.
According to Scebba, the discussion will focus on a “review of the role security services play in the current policy,” as well as on the assessment of the success of designated campus smoking areas. The committee will be “exploring options for new sites, physical improvements to the sites themselves, and issues of accessibility,” he said.
Scebba raised concerns about whether the community would be adequately consulted on such decisions.
“The committee is very open to student consultation, I just don’t think they’re always good about following through with that,” he said. “Out of concern that the members of the UHSC may not follow through with this responsibility to an ideal extent before that discussion takes place […] the committee needs as much input as it can get.”
Reactions to a campus-wide ban among students who smoke were mixed, with many students supporting a smoke-free campus.
“I wouldn’t mind that much, to be honest,” said U3 student Kevin Dejean. “I understand how it can be uncomfortable for the non-smokers.”
Feldman, however, voiced concerns over the fairness of the policy. “Telling us ‘you have no place here in which you can, you know, be yourself and smoke,’ that’s just kind of ridiculous to me,” she said.
“I think that if there were workshops, like how to smoke better, how to dispose of your cigarette butts, what kind of impact it has on the environment, who you should be conscious of smoking around, then people would be more mindful instead of instituting this blind ban,” Feldman said.
Whether the discussion will bring about any concrete changes to the policy remains to be seen. “I do not know whether any policy updates or new items will be implemented, or merely discussed,” said Scebba.