On Aug. 15, 2020, Georgetown University’s tobacco-free campus policy will take effect, banning all students, staff members and visitors from using tobacco products on university grounds.
The sweeping ban will be ineffective, as students who smoke are likely to defy the rules because of the inconvenience of leaving campus. To improve the effectiveness of the policy, the university should establish smoking areas in discreet locations on campus.
Student efforts to establish a tobacco-free campus first began with the Smoke Free Georgetown campaign, which launched in fall 2016. The Georgetown University Student Association held a referendum in December 2016 in which 49.64% students voted in favor of a tobacco-free campus and 46.37% voted in opposition. The referendum yielded 41% participation among all students
In April 2019, more than two years later, the university announced a tobacco-free policy would be implemented in August 2020. The policy prohibits the use of any tobacco products, including any form of e-cigarettes, within university grounds, according to the announcement.
Though the tobacco-free policy is a good measure to improve student health, designated smoking areas would accomplish the same goal without relying on the unrealistic expectation that everyone will stop smoking.
The university’s current smoking policy prohibits smoking inside buildings and within 25 feet of any building. With the vague and often unenforced policy, people regularly smoke outside of buildings, such as Lauinger Library and the Intercultural Center. As a result, students are often subject to the harms of secondhand smoke when they pass by these areas.
To fully implement the tobacco-free campus, Georgetown must first improve its enforcement mechanism and sanction people who violate the policy. At the same time, creating designated smoking areas away from highly trafficked roads would similarly protect students from exposure to secondhand smoke.
With these areas, students, faculty, staff members and visitors who wish to smoke can do so without having to choose between defying university policy and leaving campus altogether. With a viable alternative to smoke in certain areas on campus, smokers would be potentially less inclined to risk the consequences of violating university policy.
The establishment of smoking areas is not uncommon in tobacco-free campuses. After implementing a tobacco-free campus in 2016, the Georgetown University Law Center determined two specific smoking areas away from building entrances and key pathways. American University has also established designated a smoking area on the perimeter of campus. Georgetown’s main campus should do the same.
While Georgetown’s commitment to students’ health certainly extends to all students, including those students who smoke, the university cannot presume everyone on campus would stop smoking simply because of its tobacco ban. Instead, the university should focus more on augmenting its resources that help people quit smoking.
Additionally, some may see designated smoking areas as a violation of the student body’s popular vote in the 2016 referendum. Though the referendum outlines the worthy goal of eliminating tobacco on campus, the university’s specific policy should make practical adjustments to increase effectiveness while still accomplishing the goal of protecting students from secondhand smoke.
The university’s tobacco-ban set for August 2020 is impractical. To better accomplish its goal of a healthier, tobacco-free campus, the university should designate specific smoking areas.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and chaired by the opinion editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.