Univer­si­ties look to butt out

More Cana­dian uni­ver­sity and col­lege cam­puses go­ing smoke-free

The Prince George Citizen - - Front Page - Sh­eryl UBELACKER

Agrow­ing num­ber of uni­ver­sity and col­lege cam­puses across the coun­try are now fully smoke-free – both in­doors and out, says a re­port by the Cana­dian Cancer So­ci­ety re­leased Thurs­day.

The re­port says there are now 65 post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions that pro­hibit smok­ing any­where on cam­pus, more than dou­ble the num­ber in 2017, when 30 col­leges and uni­ver­sity cam­puses had im­ple­mented smoke-free poli­cies. That’s also a dra­matic rise from a decade ear­lier, when only four such in­sti­tu­tions had full smok­ing bans.

Dal­housie Uni­ver­sity in Hal­i­fax was among the first to make its cam­pus 100 per cent smoke-free, in 2003. Those that have fol­lowed in­clude the Uni­ver­sity of Regina, McMaster Uni­ver­sity in Hamil­ton and Ge­orge Brown Col­lege in Toronto.

“The trend is ac­cel­er­at­ing,” Rob Cun­ning­ham, se­nior pol­icy an­a­lyst at the Cana­dian Cancer So­ci­ety, said from Ot­tawa. “We’ve seen the fea­si­bil­ity at var­i­ous col­leges and univer­si­ties do­ing it, which then prompts en­cour­age­ment to nearby in­sti­tu­tions to do the same thing.

“That’s pos­i­tive be­cause not only is there pro­tec­tion from sec­ond­hand smoke, but it’s a great mo­ti­va­tor for smok­ers to quit be­cause it’s less con­ve­nient.”

Of the univer­si­ties and col­leges that are smoke-free, many have poli­cies that also ap­ply to cannabis, hookah smok­ing and e-cig­a­rettes.

But next month’s le­gal­iza­tion of re­cre­ational mar­i­juana is spurring many post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions to strengthen cur­rent smoke-free poli­cies and may prod oth­ers to bring in their own bans.

“Sud­denly, it’s go­ing to be le­gal to smoke cannabis. There are many un­der­age stu­dents,” said Cun­ning­ham, not­ing that de­pend­ing on the prov­ince, those un­der the age of 18 or 19 are pro­hib­ited from smok­ing pot.

The eas­i­est thing for all of the coun­try’s 260 col­leges and univer­si­ties to do, he said, “is to say you can’t smoke any­thing any­where on cam­pus.”

At the Uni­ver­sity of Toronto, stu­dents have long been banned from smok­ing tobacco in res­i­dences and “the same will ap­ply for smok­ing cannabis,” spokesper­son El­iz­a­beth Church said by email.

The uni­ver­sity is re­view­ing its smok­ing pol­icy for all three if its cam­puses, which bans smok­ing in build­ings or “any­where pro­hib­ited by law,” she said.

“Un­der On­tario’s Cannabis Act, use of cannabis will be banned in all work­places and pub­lic spa­ces. At U of T, that in­cludes of­fices, class­rooms, li­braries, ath­letic fa­cil­i­ties, and cam­pus grounds.”

The Uni­ver­sity of Bri­tish Columbia is also in the midst of re­vis­ing its smok­ing poli­cies for both the Vancouver and Okana­gan cam­puses, with pro­posed changes to be pre­sented to the in­sti­tu­tion’s board on Sept. 27, fol­lowed by a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion.

Cur­rently, the Vancouver cam­pus bans tobacco and cannabis smok­ing in build­ings, bus shel­ters, inside uni­ver­sity ve­hi­cles, and within eight me­tres of doors and air-in­take vents, said UBC lawyer Michael Sere­bri­akov. At the Okana­gan cam­pus in Kelowna, smok­ing is pro­hib­ited ev­ery­where ex­cept in des­ig­nated gaze­bos.

“The cur­rent ver­sion of the pol­icy does not im­pose 100 per

Next month’s le­gal­iza­tion of re­cre­ational mar­i­juana is spurring many post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions to strengthen cur­rent smoke-free poli­cies...

cent smok­ing ban on ei­ther of the cam­puses,” he said.

“We have to take into con­sid­er­a­tion the le­gal rights of cannabis and tobacco smok­ers as well as con­sid­er­a­tion of peo­ple who are vul­ner­a­ble to the im­pact of sec­ond-hand smoke. So at this point there is no gen­eral pro­hi­bi­tion.”

Un­der the pro­posed pol­icy changes, “cannabis and tobacco smok­ing and va­p­ing will be treated in the same way as tobacco smok­ing is treated un­der the cur­rent pol­icy,” said Sere­bri­akov, not­ing that the re­vised ver­sion is ex­pected to be fi­nal­ized and ap­proved in early 2019.

The Cana­dian Cancer So­ci­ety is also con­cerned about the grow­ing preva­lence of va­p­ing, par­tic­u­larly among youth – a phe­nom­e­non the com­mis­sioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion char­ac­ter­ized this week as an “epi­demic of ad­dic­tion,” mainly driven by flavoured prod­ucts.

“Most cam­puses adopt­ing poli­cies are ap­ply­ing them to smok­ing of any­thing, in­clud­ing cannabis, and ap­ply­ing it to e-cig­a­rettes as well,” said Cun­ning­ham.

“But it is good for poli­cies to be com­pre­hen­sive,” he said. “One of the rea­sons for that is that you can con­sume cannabis through an eci­garette. That’s part of the con­text of why there shouldn’t be va­p­ing ei­ther on cam­pus.”


A pedes­trian walks past the Dal­housie Den­tistry Build­ing in Hal­i­fax. A Cana­dian Cancer So­ci­ety re­port says 65 uni­ver­sity and col­lege cam­puses across Canada are now fully smoke-free.

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