Georgetown University is set to ban the use of tobacco products on campus in August 2020, more than two years after students voted in a student government referendum to create a smoke-free campus.
Smoking and other tobacco use will be prohibited within Georgetown University owned buildings and grounds, according to an April 25 campuswide email announcing the policy. Prohibited items include all e-cigarettes, according to Charles DeSantis, associate vice president for Benefits, Payroll and Wellness. Juuls and vape both fall under the category of e-cigarettes, according to The New York Times. This policy will apply to all students, faculty, staff and university visitors.
Smoke Free Georgetown, a student-led group advocating for a smoke-free campus, petitioned the Georgetown University Student Association in October 2016 to hold a studentwide referendum on banning smoking on campus. After three years of advocacy leading up to the referendum in December 2016, the student body voted in support of the tobacco-free movement, with 49.6 percent of the entire student body voting in favor of the ban.
Mac Williams (NHS ’17), a campaign leader for Smoke Free Georgetown, said the administration’s message demonstrated a major improvement in prioritizing campus-wide health.
“This announcement is a positive step toward transitioning the campus to being smoke and tobacco free, and sends a clear message that Georgetown takes health and wellness seriously,” Williams wrote in a message to The Hoya.
The 2016 referendum results were intended to inform GUSA’s advocacy to the university and did not mandate university action or policy. Students had not received an update on the ban following the vote until the email from DeSantis on Thursday.
The administration’s response, however, lacks sufficient policy information and has failed to incorporate all of student advocacy suggestions, according to Williams.
“After reading the full statement however, I am left with several unanswered questions, and I hope the university provides greater detail in the very near future,” Williams wrote. “Ending the sale of tobacco products on campus and providing resources and medication for cessation were key pieces of our proposal, and the recent statement does little to provide specific information on these points. I urge the administration to offer more detailed communication.”
This transition to a smoke- and tobacco-free campus comes after several years of planning by the university, according to the Thursday email.
Any student with multiple infractions of the smoke- and tobacco-free policy may be considered in violation of the Code of Student Conduct and will be subject to disciplinary action. Repeat violations by any faculty or staff member will be handled through normal university processes, according to the smoke- and tobacco-free policy.
Georgetown will join thousands of smoke-free and tobacco-free colleges and universities nationwide, according to DeSantis. Peer institutions that have implemented similar bans include Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Other locations within Georgetown have transitioned to being tobacco-free over the last 10 years such as MedStar Hospital, the Georgetown University Medical Center and the Georgetown University Law Center, according to the university website.
In accordance with Washington, D.C. laws, smoking is prohibited in all indoor locations, including residence hall rooms, apartments and townhouses and allowed only in designated outdoor areas, which must be 25 feet away from building entrances to reduce the risk of secondhand smoke. The ban would extend the prohibition on smoking to all other areas of campus beyond those named in D.C. laws.
This new policy may affect the sales of Students of Georgetown, Inc., commonly known as The Corp, as the student-run organization still sells tobacco products in its Hoya Snaxa and Vital Vittles locations.
In recent efforts to reduce tobacco usage on campus, Casey Kozak (NHS ’20), GUSA policy chair for student health, advocated for The Corp to eliminate sales of tobacco products in their storefronts last October.
Kozak attempted to arrange a meeting through a message to the personal email of former Corp CEO Alex Gong (SFS ’20) last October to discuss the organization’s sale of tobacco products. However, The Corp was not planning on ending tobacco product sales as of that time, former Chairman of The Corp Ricardo Mondolfi (SFS ’19) said in an October interview with The Hoya.
The Corp did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.
GUSA will continue pushing for a healthier campus and supporting the needs of the student body, according to GUSA press executive Harper Thomas (SFS ‘22).
“The Norman-Aleida administration’s first priority is always the well-being of the student body,” Thomas wrote in an email to The Hoya. “GUSA will continue to monitor the roll-out of this new policy and engage in dialogue with the student body to seek out ways of addressing any concerns or challenges that may arise.”
The ban reinforces Georgetown’s commitment to Jesuit values like cura personalis, which calls for individualized attention of the needs of others, according to DeSantis.
“This important initiative forward is an expression of who we are as a University and how we live out one of our most central values: care of the whole person,” DeSantis wrote.
The Office of Faculty and Staff Benefits is also providing comprehensive support to individuals attempting to quit smoking through online links and direction to on-campus resources, according to DeSantis.
“This is a change that may significantly impact many members of our community,” DeSantis wrote. “We hope to create a supportive transition by providing individuals with more than a year’s notice and access to a variety of tobacco and smoking cessation resources.”
Hoya Staff Writer Riley Rogerson contributed reporting.