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SAIT Smoking policy:Anti-smoking advocate supports new campus smoking policy

Executive director of Action on Smoking and Health says that move to limit smoking on campus to designated smoking areas is a step in the right direction

A prominent anti-smoking advocate has voiced support for SAIT’s new smoking policy and procedure, which restricts smoking on campus to designated smoking areas.

Amendments to the Health, Safety, and Environment (HS) Smoking and Use of  Tobacco Products Policy (HS.1.4) and Procedure (H.S.1.4.1) for SAIT came into effect on July 1, now restricting smoking to six designated areas on campus.

Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the preeminent tobacco control organization for Western Canada, applauds the decision to localize smoking.

“We’re delighted that SAIT has passed a more comprehensive policy to address smoking and vaping,” said Hagen.

The six designated smoking areas on campus are each located adjacent to a SAIT building: Thomas Riley (northeast corner); Aldred Centre (west entrance); E.H. Crandell (main entrance); Campus Centre (northeast entrance) and Senator Burns (north patio).

What can and can’t you smoke on campus?

The restrictions are not limited to lit cigarettes. Under the policy procedure, the definition of smoking is “to inhale, exhale, burn, carry, or possess lighted tobacco, cannabis or other herbal products, including cigarettes, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), cigars, cigarillos, pipe tobacco, hookahs or other products capable of being smoked.”

The move represents a significant restriction in the area, in which students and faculty can smoke. Previous bylaws permitted smoking throughout campus if it occurred 10 metres from any building entrance, and away from sensitive features like air intakes.

According to Chris Gerritsen, communications team lead at SAIT, a review of the previous campus smoking policy was initiated after some students and employees objected to how smoking affects the air.

“We would get complaints from non-smokers of having to walk through clouds of smoke while getting to class or work,” said Gerritsen.

Who made the policy?

The policy was developed in consulting with SAIT employees, students  and apprentices. The results of a campus-wide survey indicated that more than half of respondents preferred the option of designated smoking zones over a smoke-free campus or leaving the bylaws unchanged.

The move is an important milestone of decades of efforts to reduce smoking in public, according to Hagen.

“Great strides have been made in the past few decades to reduce the amount of smoking in public to protect non-smokers, including kids, from the hazards of tobacco use.”

While the new policy acts to localize smoking on campus to certain defined areas, it does not remove the threat of second-hand smoke from campus altogether. 

“The risk of exposure of second-hand smoke outdoors is still of concern, particularly for those that have severe allergies or asthma,” said Hagen. 

“If they have to run a gauntlet of smoke to get in a building;  that could be enough to set off a very severe reaction – like an asthma attack for example.”

As such, in the eyes of ASH, the best decision would be to prohibit smoking at SAIT altogether.

“The ultimate policy would prohibit or severely limit smoking and vaping on campus,” said Hagen.

The move to prohibit smoking at SAIT altogether may seem like a drastic move to some, however, Bow Valley College prohibits smoking throughout all outdoor spaces on campus, although these spaces are reportedly rooftops and courtyards, rather than the relatively large open spaces at SAIT.

“It has the most comprehensive tobacco policy of any post-secondary institution in Canada, except for Burman University.”

Burman University, located in Lacombe, Alta., and Bow Valley College were awarded a national leadership award by ASH, and received a final grade of A under the Alberta Post-Secondary Tobacco Policy Report Card, while SAIT received a final grade of B.

“You don’t have to look too far for national leadership on this issue, and we hope that SAIT will strive towards that policy,” said Hagen.

Nevertheless, the changes to the bylaws at SAIT are a victory, according to Hagen.

“It’s an important step in the right direction, and we applaud SAIT for adopting this policy,” said Hagen. 

“Now that smoking is confined under the new policy, it makes it easier for non-smokers to avoid smoke on campus – that helps.”

Restricting smoking on campus could have health benefits to its faculty and students, but could also further limit the normalization of smoking in public, said Hagen.

“The more we model smoking to youth, the more likely they are to become smokers themselves.”

“When they are on campus and they see people smoking, they think that’s a normal and acceptable behaviour.”

Efforts should continue to reduce smoking cues in publics – and public institutions should be leading the charge, especially those like SAIT that serve young people, explained Hagen.

“It’s important for institutions like SAIT to serve as health role models in the community.”

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