WU holding its breath for tobacco ban’s start

| Staff Reporter

While St. Louis County has passed Proposition N, Washington University is continuing to prepare for the implementation of its smoking ban.

Jill Carnaghi, associate vice chancellor for students and dean of campus life, and Student Union Senator Amy Heard, a junior, are co-chairing an undergraduate task force for a smoke-free campus. The task force is divided into four subcommittees—with one subcommittee working with athletes to implement the ban, another with international students, another with students in fraternities and sororities, and another with students living in Residential Life housing.

Carnaghi said she is aware of the differing student viewpoints about the smoking ban, but notes that the task force is involved not in actual decision-making but rather the implementation.

“We still don’t know how enforcement will work, but we think we’re getting closer with what we’d want to see in an ideal world,” Carnaghi said. “We’ll clearly be a tobacco-free campus by July 1, but we are working on how will we educate the community and really talk about raising the standards of individual responsibility.”

Although Heard said that not all of the members on the task force agree with the ban, they are working to make its implementation go smoothly.

“People understand that it could have been announced in a better way, but what we were told from day one is that it’s going to happen, so people have accepted that even if they don’t agree with it,” Heard said. “We are going forward in making sure it affects undergraduates in the best possible way, now that we have it, since there’s nothing we can do about it”

Anthropology professor Peter Benson said the smoking ban would affect the health of both smokers and non-smokers.

“This policy impacts all members of the University,” Benson said. “Apart from secondhand smoke being eliminated, we can expect a decline in smoking prevalence. Studies repeatedly demonstrate that smoke-free laws very quickly reduce smoking in communities by about 30 percent.”

Benson noted that although secondhand smoke is most harmful in enclosed settings, the University policy nevertheless does have an impact on nonsmoker health.

“Even in outdoor settings, secondhand smoke can have acute effects, including increased risk for heart attack and asthma attack,” Benson said. “The University tobacco policy protects people on campus who may have heart conditions and respiratory conditions that secondhand smoke can trigger.”

Benson said he is confident in the eventual effectiveness of the University’s ban, because smoking bans have been proven to be the most successful attempts to curb smoking.

“This policy will encourage quit attempts and improve the rate of success,” Benson said. “Prohibitions on smoking in workplaces dramatically increase the likelihood that smokers who want to quit will be able to do so. This successful impact more or less disappears if outdoor smoking is permitted.”

The ongoing implementation of the University’s smoking ban has coincided with the passage of Proposition N, which will ban smoking in indoor public places in St. Louis County other than bars that make under 75 percent of their revenue off alcohol, casinos, private clubs, and the smoking lounges in Lambert Airport, effective January 2011. The University’s ban, on the other hand, will prohibit smoking on the entire campus.

With the campus ban set to take effect in July, there is still much work to be done on the task force.

“We want students to be as aware as possible about how this is moving forward,” Carnaghi said.

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