For over a year now, three undergraduate students have been spearheading an initiative to change the smoking policy at UR. As it stands, there is no timeline for the institution of any one policy. If implemented though, a change in policy would not only promote cleaner air on campus, it would also create a healthier campus, arriving in the context of a national trend toward smoke-free environments, already prevalent in many bars, theaters and other college campuses.
The students in charge of this initiative are currently pushing for UR to be smoke free with designated smoking areas on campus so as not to ostracize smokers. This is a compromise from what was originally suggested as a 100 percent smoke-free policy. UR’s current rule stipulates that no smoking can occur within 30 feet of a building, yet it is usually overlooked. With this new policy, having designated smoking areas in parts of campus that are not heavily-trafficked would reduce second-hand smoke exposure while still being accomodating to smokers’ rights. This issue concerning a lack of clean air is often important for nonsmokers, especially those with asthma or other health concerns. Without lingering smoke in the majority of the air, students, faculty and staff would be able to breathe more easily on all areas of campus.
Many students who oppose having a smoke-free campus, even with designated smoking areas, believe that those who smoke have a right to do so at UR. Smoking is not, in fact, a right on private property. UR has the authority to limit or even prohibit smoking anywhere on campus, much like it has the authority to make rules about alcohol usage. If UR makes regulations preventing people from smoking on campus, it is incumbent upon the administration to educate the school about its policies as well as establish reasonable expectations for how the plan for these designated smoking areas would be instituted, both endeavors which are currently — and should continue to be — discussed. The idea is not to penalize those who smoke, but rather to promote healthy living for everyone who attends and works at the University.
This initiative would also be consistent with the fact that one part of the University, the UR Medical Center (URMC), went smoke free in 2006.
Becoming a smoke-free campus with designated smoking areas would be a step in the right direction for cleaner air and a healthier atmosphere on UR property while still respecting the rights of everyone at the University.