A ban in November on smoking in or near University of California medical centers began a string of planned changes in smoking policy for the UC system. This series of bans is now hitting home. Starting this fall, university-owned apartments will be smoke-free.
This new perspective on how the UC should treat smoking was introduced in a letter this January from UC President Mark Yudof. It states that all university-owned property must be smoke-free by 2014. Currently, policy on campus forbids smoking indoors and within 25 feet of a building, but it is allowed in most other areas. As for the apartments, policy allows smoking within the apartments, but not on balconies or within 25 feet of doors or windows outside.
While the ban on smoking in or near medical centers is logical and acceptable, as hospitals should be sanitary, the ban in university apartments is an overly idealistic attempt to make UC students healthier.
Peter Angelis, assistant vice chancellor of UCLA Housing and Hospitality Services, said heavy smoking in the apartments leads to higher cleaning costs, as getting rid of the smoke damage can entail shampooing the carpet, repainting walls and cleaning drapes.
This is a valid point, but it does not merit the exclusion of smoking areas in university apartments. If smokers are already unable to smoke on their balconies, where there is ventilation, or near their doors, disallowing the activity within the apartment is borderline discrimination.
Dianne Klein, spokesperson for the University of California, said estimations show less than 10 percent of UC students and staff are smokers.
Thus, 90 percent of the UC population will be unaffected by the ban, except in being less exposed to secondhand smoke.
Just because smokers are a minority does not make it any more permissible to issue behavioral regulations on them. Yudof’s letter emphasizes that enforcement of the ban should be “primarily educational, with an emphasis on cessation resources.”
So far, the details for this have not been worked out, Klein said. At the local level, Angelis said there is campus-provided smoking cessation information run through health services. He also said that in the announcement to the apartment residents, there were links leading to helpful sites. While this style of enforcement is consistent with the UC’s core goal of being an educating institution, when it comes to rights within the home, the UC should allow students more autonomy.
By the look of it, this policy speaks to a future of cleanliness and hygiene for the UC, but it neglects to note that, for some, smoking is an important part of daily life.
The Smoke-free Policy Proposal issued last October by the Smoking Policy Subcommittee of the Occupational Wellness Forum, made up of representatives from many UC campuses, cites various reasons for the UC to adopt a non-smoking policy, including negative environmental impacts and reductions in heart disease morbidity, smoking rates and secondhand smoke.
The document also notes that “the University of CA is a national leader in healthcare and environmental practices,” and that the policy is “an opportunity to show that leadership in this area.”
However, the argument for reducing secondhand smoke exposure does not apply when it comes to smoking inside one’s apartment. In this case, the UC cannot discern smoking health concerns from other individual health concerns, such as eating unhealthy food. As the UC does not consider itself dictatorial enough to place restrictions on the food tenants eat in their own homes, it follows that there should be no restrictions placed on tenants smoking in their own homes either.
To avoid irritating non-smoking neighbors, a cluster of apartments can be designated as smoking apartments, so smokers can exist in their own sphere. To right cost issues, smokers in university apartments may pay additional fees to cover cleaning costs, just as non-smokers are held responsible for damage to their apartments through security deposits.
It is unfair for us to expect those who are dependent on smoking as a form of stress relief to walk far out of their way in order to do so. This especially applies to the living situation of said smokers. Apartments should be a haven for those who have chosen to make their homes there, and for smokers, a comfortable abode includes the ability to smoke when and where desired. The UC should not infringe upon the rights of this population.
An idealistic goal is in mind with this anti-smoking policy ““ it sees a future wherein no one smokes, and the environment is idyllic because of it. However, as this is not the case, the UC needs to reduce antagonism toward the smoking population and understand that accommodating the minority to some degree is not a death sentence.
Do you think the smoking ban should extend to university apartments?
_Email Kass at [email protected] _