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What a drag How McMaster’s smoking ban prioritizes health and wellness concerns over safety and accessibility for smokers

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In September 2017, McMaster released a statement saying it will attempt to ban smoking on campus that following January, establishing itself as “Ontario’s first 100 per cent tobacco and smoke-free campus.”

The ban was to take effect in January 2018. In its initial months, anyone smoking on campus was to be given a verbal warning and a reminder of McMaster’s smoking cessation policies. Eventually, enforcement was set to include follow-ups by McMaster Security Services through Human Resources, the Provost or Student Affairs, or, the smoker was to be issued a university violation notice.  

Currently in the latter half of these punitive measures, with some reporting to have received tickets for smoking on campus, it’s safe to say that the smoking ban is in full effect. This means that smokers will continue to smoke, but will have to find places off campus that work.

Sure, on paper this smoking ban looks good. It could make campus a bit healthier, it could prevent excessive second-hand smoke and, if given the proper resources, it could help more students, staff and faculty to quit smoking.

A campus-wide ban doesn’t help smokers in a meaningful way. Instead, it just means that they will have to walk off campus. The reality is that the smoking ban is leaving those who smoke in conditions that are unsafe and inaccessible.

McMaster has a huge campus safe, for the most part, the areas that are considered to be off-campus are poorly lit, nearly ten minutes away from public property and are inaccessible in any kind of inclement weather. Overall, the smoking ban imposes safety concerns to those who light up.

This begs the question as to whether the university genuinely cares about any student, staff or faculty who doesn’t fit into its idea of what health and wellness should look like. There’s no doubt that smoking is unhealthy, but by forcing smokers to take their habit off-campus, the university makes it clear that those with addiction aren’t welcome here.

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Author: Emily O'Rourke

Emily is a recent Communication Studies grad. Now you can find her in the big seat as Editor-in-Chief. She mostly talks about PR, meme culture, coffee and dogs. Emily was also voted biggest klutz in her high school's graduating class, FYI.