Smoking ban in the works

Before you light up your next cigarette in your room, think again. The College and the state of New Jersey are both looking to ban smoking in all residence halls. The change – proposed in a state bill that passed in the Senate March 14 – could go into effect as early as Fall 2005 if legislated by the state government, according to Mary-Elaine Perry, vice president for Student Life.

While the bill will next be considered by the Assembly, Perry said the College is taking its own steps to ban smoking in residence halls even if the bill does not pass.

If the bill does not pass, Perry said it would take longer for such a policy to go into effect at the College, due to the time College governance policies take to pass. “I would think the very earliest would be next January, but most likely the fall,” she said.

An e-mail sent out by the Committee for Student and Campus Community (CSCC) in mid-March was just one step the College took toward creating and passing the new policy. Glenn Steinberg, chair of CSCC, said the Steering Committee approached her committee during Fall 2004 to review the current smoking policy.

As of now, the policy bans smoking in all academic buildings and Townhouses East and West, because they have recirculated air.

“We initially looked at it and consulted with RHA (Residence Hall Association) and SGA (Student Government Association) and various other organizations and had decided to not take any action,” Steinberg said.

With more input from the College’s legal counsel and the Alcohol and Drug Education Program, the committee decided to seek widespread student input.

An online inquiry sent out by CSCC on March 17 asked residents if they would choose to live in a smoke-free residence hall. It was a success, according to Steinberg, with nearly 1,000 students responding. Around 80 percent expressed a preference to live in a smoke-free residence hall.

Steinberg said that while CSCC feels this policy is sufficiently supported by the student body and would be a positive change, it will wait to recommend the change.

“We felt at this point in the end of the semester it would be hard to set up public forums and gather feedback about changing the policy,” Steinberg said. “We thought we’d wait until next fall, which has the added advantage that if the state does pass the proposed law, then it’s out of our hands anyway.”

“I think it’s messed up,” Matt Steager, freshman nursing major, said. “We’re paying housing, too. You should be able to do it if it’s your habit. I know there might be secondhand smoke, but you can keep your door shut.”

Sarah Braun, freshman interactive multimedia major, disagrees. “The smoke comes up through the sink,” she said, as sinks in each room in Travers and Wolfe Halls have connected plumbing. “I hate the smell, and that would drive me nuts.”

Freshman music education major Mike Cowen agreed. His great uncle lost his larynx, commonly referred to as the voice box, to cancer caused by smoking, so he is very aware of the health risks associated with cigarette smoke. “You should just take it outside,” he said.

Even some smokers who are not in favor of the policy said they understand the need for it.

“It’s no big deal. It’s a bummer for people who want to do it in their rooms, but it’s a health thing I guess,” Joe Moore, sophomore economics major, said.

Steinberg said he understands the frustration that some students will feel if the policy goes into effect. “I do understand the argument that the dorm room is one’s private residence,” he said.

“I sympathize with those who argue that this will be an inconvenience to tell them that they can’t smoke in their rooms,” Steinberg said. “But when you live in a dorm, you give up certain rights because of the general safety of everyone in the building.”