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Smoking: Prohibited

One of the clients that I work for, Champlain College Saint-Lambert, recently posted the following notice on their blog (emphasis added):

Champlain College Saint-Lambert will become a smoke and tobacco-free campus for all for employees, students, and visitors effective July 1st 2017.

The use of all tobacco products is prohibited on campus properties, both indoor and outdoor, of the College including all buildings and grounds owned by the College. This policy applies to the parking lot as well as the front and side walkways. Tobacco is defined as any type of tobacco product including, but not limited to cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, electronic cigarettes, smokeless or spit tobacco or snuff.

For those who are interested in stopping their use of tobacco products please contact Health Services (students) or the local HR department (faculty and staff) for a list of resources and programs.

My first reaction was “wow, talk about an aggressive stance.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the overall opposition to smoking. (Once you learn about the negative health impact of smoking tobacco, it’s kind of hard to defend it.) I can therefore appreciate the idea of a green, smoke-free campus. I can even commend Champlain for mentioning how people could get help in quitting their habit, right there in the post. However, I still felt there was a certain harshness in the announcement, particularly surrounding the “including all buildings and grounds owned” bit, and how that would play out in the real world considering Champlain’s specific campus design. 

Put simply, the layout was such that smokers would be forced to go to the park next door, or across the street in front of the college, to indulge in their habit. The two other sides of the college were too impractical – one faced the highway and had a fence barrier, meaning people were always on college grounds, and the other was a large parking lot. Technically, you could walk completely across the parking lot to go smoke, but this was pointless when you could simply walk to the park next door, or across the street.

Keep in mind, before Champlain’s announcement, in Quebec, it was still forbidden by law to “smok[e] within a nine-metre radius of a door, window or external air intake of a public or private building.” Nine meters, in my opinion, seemed like a pretty good deal. It was the complete ban of smoking on the campus grounds that seemed excessive, especially given Champlain’s layout. While this may seem like a minor issue, consider the meteorological realities of Quebec. In the winter, this would mean getting dressed and going for a walk specifically to smoke. Winter temperatures would make this journey an uncomfortable affair. 

Photo by Patrik Nygren

Of course, discomfort is likely the intention… don’t like the inconvenience? Stop smoking. But what I’m saying is this: don’t these people still deserve respect, despite their habit? Are they so disgusting and vile that 9 meters couldn’t possibly be acceptable? 

Intrigued, I took to Google. Guess what I learned? With its announcement, the college was simply adhering to Quebec’s Tobacco Control Act (emphasis added): 

2.1. Smoking is prohibited

(3) on grounds placed at the disposal of an educational institution governed by the Education Act (chapter I-13.3), the Education Act for Cree, Inuit and Naskapi Native Persons (chapter I-14) or the Act respecting private education (chapter E-9.1) and providing preschool education services, elementary and secondary school instructional services, educational services in vocational training or educational services to adults in general education;

I never realized exactly how aggressive the anti-tobacco laws were in Quebec. Further googling revealed a page by the Quebec government in which they reveal the actions they took towards controlling tobacco use, chronologically. For 2017, here’s what they wrote (emphasis added):

Health and social services establishments and post-secondary institutions must have adopted a policy for creating a smoke-free environment no later than November 26.

So again, Champlain was simply putting in place the needed policies to be in full compliance with the law. And yes, these policies meant people would be displaced somewhat when smoking, but this would likely be the same at other institutions, also forced to comply with these new rules. I still feel there’s something to be said here about respecting people’s choices, as unhealthy as they might be, without resorting to extreme measures. The 9 meter rule seemed reasonable to me, as a way of minimizing second hand smoke; the Quebec government, however, took it to another level. But I guess the logic on the part of legislators is likely that the significance of the health threat justifies this type of a response. Does it, though? I’ll keep pondering this… feel free to let me know what you think.

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