Rethinking idea of ‘smoke-free campus’

I well understand and appreciate the public health implications of a smoke-free campus. However, we may need to rethink this well-intentioned initiative for a few different reasons.

Because of what I believe to be stage two of the campaign — removing ashtrays across campus – there are now cigarette butts all over the ground outside Norlin Library where I work. Surely it will get worse — as it always does — as finals loom.

This indicates that, although the signage is ubiquitous, the campaign hasn’t proven effective. Even before the ashtrays were removed, many smokers ignored the few and far between designated smoking areas. It’s awkward to have a campus that purports to be smoke-free when it isn’t actually the case and, given the addictive nature of tobacco, it’s problematic to present smokers with this dilemma.

A second reason to reconsider the initiative relates to the privilege Brenda Allen invoked at the recent systemwide diversity summit. Who gets to clean up these cigarette butts, which are, after all, bona fide trash? One solution is to continue to offer smoking cessation support while providing numerous smoking areas on campus with adequate ashtrays near or attached to existing trash receptacles.

Joan Gabriele
Director, Special Undergraduate Enrichment Programs, CU-Boulder

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