College looks to make some dorms smoke-free

by Kathleen McDermott | 2/17/00 6:00am

The College has tentative plans provide smoke-free residence halls starting next year, according to Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman.

Along with the already substance-free Butterfield Hall, Rip/Wood/Smith and the new East Wheelock building are tentatively planned to be smoke-free next fall, and the number may increase in the future based on demand.

"We get many requests from students each year for smoke-free housing and are convinced that we need to begin moving in this direction," Redman said.

The reasons for smoke-free residence halls are many, according to Redman. Many students have asthma or are allergic to cigarette smoke, and all are put at a health risk from the second-hand smoke.

It is also a safety hazard. "The leading causes of residential hall fires nationally is smoking, followed by halogen lighting and then open flames. We currently ban the latter two," Redman said.

And with students switching residences so frequently, students expecting a smoke-free room often are placed in a room just occupied by the smoker, with the residual odor still strong.

The College is also expected to provide smoke-free rooms to alumni and other conference attendees, which "is hard to do if a two-pack-a-day smoker just moved out of a room two weeks ago," Redman said.

A survey by Nobacco, a campus organization promoting non-smoking, found that nearly half of non-smokers and ex-smokers would be interested in living in a smoke-free dorm, while one-third had no opinion and only one-fourth would not be interested, according to the coordinator of the Nobacco survey, Cecelia Gaffney. Non-smokers compose 70-80 percent of the student body, according to Redman.

Dartmouth Cancer Awareness Organization President Gary Maslow views the smoke-free residences as good, but not anything that will lead to a reduction in student smoking.

People already are not allowed to smoke in many places, "but it doesn't lead to a culture without smoking," Maslow said. At Dartmouth the problem is not so much with students smoking in dorms, but smoking outside or at parties, according to Maslow. To combat the root of the problem there must be more than smoke-free dorms.

Amherst College has also recently decided to convert three of its residence halls to smoke-free dorms, after the Amherst Students Fighting Cancer submitted a successful proposal for the change to the Amherst College Council.

According to Amherst Students Fighting Cancer President Angela Tokunda, although only 14.7 percent of students there smoke, smoking in dorms has been a problem.

"It doesn't make sense to have a smoke-free floor," Tokunda said. Smoke can be smelled in common spaces and drifts out into hallways and up to other floors, often causing problems for people with health problems such as asthma.

Amherst will begin the dorms next fall and based on students' reactions will decide whether or not to continue them.