Ian Earle looks towards Desiree Pulido while smoking a cigarette in the smoking area near Wilson Library neighboring Red Square on Tuesday, Oct. 15. // Photo by Alex Moreno
Changes are being made to the rules for smoking on campus, following a recommendation made by Western’s Central Health and Safety Committee (CHSC) for a more restrictive policy.
Western’s director of environmental health and CHSC member Sue Sullivan estimates that the committee’s plan will be ready for implementation fall of 2021.
The committee has led an ongoing discussion with Western President Sabah Randhawa and his cabinet on moving toward a smoke-free campus. A decision was made to restrict smoking on campus to designated smoking areas, Sullivan said.
Creating designated smoking areas was one of three options presented to Western students, faculty and staff in a survey conducted in January.
“We developed three policies for them to consider,” Sullivan said. “Status quo, completely banning it on campus and then sort of in the middle, where smoking would not be allowed on major walkways but only in designated areas.”
The survey found that 75% of those sampled were unsatisfied with the current smoking policy on campus and most of those who responded preferred changing the policy to include designated areas, Sullivan said.
The committee was given approval to move forward with the new policy, but no changes are planned until fall of 2021.
“The president and the president’s cabinet wanted to make sure there was adequate time to prepare the campus for this change,” said Paul Cocke, Western’s director of communications and marketing.
CHSC is in the process of recruiting members for the Smoke-Free Campus Committee (SFCC), explained Sullivan, who will be working on both committees. The SFCC’s purpose will be to create an implementation plan for the new policy. According to the committee’s charter, that will include choosing where to put the designated smoking areas, and developing an education plan for the policy.
The committee will also look at what other schools are doing to restrict smoking on campus while still being inclusive to the needs of students and staff who smoke.
“This two-year process is not unlike what our peers have done,” Sullivan said. “They are mindful of taking the time to develop something that is of substance and mindful of our community while engaging in shared governance.”
The committee prioritizes taking time to educate everyone on campus on how and why the policy is changing in the hope that it will actually be followed.
“I feel like people will still continue to smoke wherever they want,” said Ethan Horan, a second-year student at Western. Horan, who is a smoker himself, was unaware of what the current smoking policy is on campus, and feels that it will be difficult to get students who smoke to follow the new policy.
Cocke said he believes the plan for changing the policy will work for the campus community.
“I think this middle ground, allowing smokers to have a place but also providing education and resources on how to lead a healthier life will work well,” Cocke said.
The new policy will also apply to vaping and the use of electronic cigarettes.
The committee wants to use this as an opportunity to create a positive impact for the health of everyone on campus.
“We have this significant population that we can potentially influence [to practice] more healthy behaviors,” Sullivan said.
The plan for changing the policy is early in development, but Cocke said information will be shared on campus as it becomes available.
“As soon as we get something concretely to start reporting out, then we can start providing information,” Cocke said.