Smoking in the Residences
From John M. Connolly, Acting President
Last spring, the College Council on Community Policy (CCCP) forwarded to President Simmons its recommendation to prohibit smoking in student residences. President Simmons circulated the report of the committee to all members of the Smith community in May 2001 and called for responses.
I have now reviewed the report and the responses, and I have consulted with senior staff about changing college policy with regard to smoking in the residences. Taking this advice into consideration, I have decided to support the recommendations of the CCCP ad hoc Committee on Smoking in the Residences and call for an end to smoking in the houses, effective August 19, 2002. The report makes a compelling case for the dangers of secondary smoke for nonsmoking students, the risk of fire in our residences, and the difficulty in ensuring the health and safety of college workers due to exposure to smoke. Although the individual's right to smoke in her private accommodation is important, it is outweighed by the need to assure all students of a healthy and safe living situation. Our houses are not constructed to ensure that secondhand smoke does not permeate the living space of those who do not wish to be exposed to it or whose health is compromised by it. In taking this step, Smith will join a growing number of similar colleges and universities.
I understand that this decision will present a hardship for some students. Health Services has agreed to expand educational programming about smoking and will continue to offer programs for those trying to quit smoking.
I would like to thank the College Council on Community Policy, and particularly its ad hoc Committee on Smoking in the Residences, for the thoughtful work and the highly consultative process that brought them to their recommendation.
October 4, 2001
Recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee on Smoking in the Residences
Smith College has a responsibility to its employees and students to provide a safe and healthful environment. In the process of developing our recommendations, we considered the self-governance policy in the residences and the rights of smokers.
While the committee recognizes the uniqueness of Smith College's semiautonomous housing system and the rights of those who choose to smoke, we concluded that the rights of smokers were outweighed by a myriad of facts. They are listed below, along with other facts that we considered in our deliberations.
Health of nonsmoking students
In 1986 the Surgeon General reported that tobacco use in any form, active and passive, is a significant health hazard.
In 1992 the Office of Health and Environmental Assessment of the U.S. EPA classified environmental tobacco smoke as a Class-A carcinogen. In the same study, the EPA estimated that some 3000 lung cancer deaths per year among nonsmokers are attributable to environmental tobacco smoke.
According to the Surgeon General, each year environmental tobacco smoke causes 150,000-300,000 lower respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, in children.
Nancy Asai of Residence Life said that within the last two years, a remarkable increase from incoming new and transfer students reported having asthma and allergies in addition to those who prefer smoke-free living quarters to avoid second-hand smoke. She also stated that among reasons for student room change requests, there has been an increase in the number of students reporting dissatisfaction based on health reasons and second hand smoke issues in the houses.
Smith College residences are older buildings with poor ventilation systems.
No ventilation system currently in existence can eliminate 100 percent of second-hand smoke and its particulates.
In 2000 the American College Health Association revised its guidelines on "Tobacco on College and University Campuses" to include: "7. Prohibit smoking in all residence halls, dormitory facilities and other campus owned housing and 6. Prohibit smoking within 20 feet of any entrance of any campus building."
The OSHA Technical Manual includes smoke from cigars, cigarettes, and pipe tobacco in its list of major indoor air contaminants. Tobacco smoke can irritate the respiratory system and, in allergic or asthmatic persons, often results in eye and nasal irritation, coughing, wheezing, sneezing, headache, and related sinus problems. People who wear contact lenses often complain of burning, itching, and tearing eyes when exposed to cigarette smoke. Tobacco smoke is a major contributor to indoor air quality problems. Tobacco smoke contains several hundred toxic substances including carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, formaldehyde, ammonia, benzene, benzo(a)pyrene, tars, and nicotine. Most indoor air particulates are due to tobacco smoke and are in the respirable range.
Safety of house residents
We recognize that Smith College's housing system is unique. Residential living is an integral part of students' education. In keeping with this philosophy, traditional undergraduates are expected to live on campus for four years. Each house is self-governing, which gives the students in the house the opportunity to decide on their own rules and their own methods for holding each other accountable. However, the self-governance policy has been overridden in the past when safety was the issue, specifically in the case of halogen lamps and candles.
Twenty-five percent of all fatal fires in Massachusetts in 1999 were the result of careless disposal of smoking materials ; careless smoking is the number one cause of all fatal fires in Massachusetts and the United States--Boston Globe, 4/02/01, State Fire Marshall's Office.
Although careless disposal of smoking materials has not been a significant factor in fires in the residences at Smith College according to Public Safety, the potential is ever present.
On October 13, 1996, a fire in James House Dormitory at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst resulted from the careless use of smoking materials. Approximately 50 students had to be relocated.
On May 12, 1996 a fire broke out at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house after a night-long graduation party attended by 250-300 students and their parents. The fire killed five people and injured three. Investigators attributed the fire, which started in the basement, to the improper use or disposal of smoking materials, which most likely ignited combustible materials.
On October 21, 1994, five students were killed at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, when a smoldering sofa resulted in a fire at the Beta Sigma Delta house. The students had removed the batteries from the house's smoke alarms, a common practice during smoky parties.
Tobacco claims the vast majority of its victims through lung and heart diseases, but each year roughly 1000 Americans die in fires ignited by cigarettes.
Health and safety of workers
The current Smith College smoking policy includes among its purposes "to provide a smoke-free workplace for all members of the College community."
At the committee's request for information, the College's counsel, Hamilton Doherty Jr., reviewed the Massachusetts General Laws and the City of Northampton's Regulations on smoking in relation to smoking in the residences at Smith, and outside of buildings. He found that Smith could be found in violation of some sections of these regulations.
The current City Regulations prohibit smoking in all "public places" and in all "work places."
The Regulations define a "work place" as any enclosed area in which one (1) or more employees are employed. Included within the work place shall be: "all common work areas at all places of employment at all times, including but not limited to the following: auditoriums, classrooms hallways."
Regardless of whether student dormitory rooms are themselves considered to be "private residences" for purposes of the Regulations, common areas of the residence halls including living rooms, hallways, dining rooms, stairways, and rest rooms all fall squarely within the definition of "public place" and/or the definition of "work place" under the Regulations.
The Regulations do not address situations where smoking in a permitted area, such as a dormitory room, results in smoke filtering into an area in which smoking is prohibited.
If it is the policy of the Regulations (and the Smith College policy) to provide a smoke-free work place environment, it should not matter how smoke gets into that environment.
RADS employee: "Speaking from ONLY MY EXPERIENCE HERE I can tell you that smoking at parties is usually the worst case scenario. For example this past weekend I was the manager on duty on Sunday morning. I went to check on the dining room at Comstock and found that it reeked of smoke and had numerous cigarette butts that were extinguished on the new floor. A sad sight for sure after so many individuals worked so hard to improve the living conditions for all the residents at Comstock and Wilder. (I guess you can also probably tell that I am a non-smoker.) I have also found that coming in and out of residences that you sometimes have to go through the smoking gauntlet to get into the buildings. Again not a pretty picture in my opinion, especially when you again see all the butts put out in front of the doors. I guess the bottom line is even if we have a total ban on smoking in all College buildings you will probably have smoking outside the buildings and of course don't know who will want to become the smoking police especially for those that don't comply. Definitely a tough issue." (Nov. 14, 2000)
Another RADS employee: "Last year the smoking at Wilder House greatly affected the Kitchen and Housekeeping staff. The "smoker" was just off the dining room and the smell and the smoke from those clove cigarettes, as well as the regular ones, was intolerable at times. We kept the dining room doors closed as much as possible posting a sign indicating that the smoke from the house was making us ill. Headaches, coughing and wheezing were some problems we had. It was brought to the attention of our immediate supervisor so she was aware of the problem. I am sure you will hear more from the people in this house that were affected. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me." (Nov. 15, 2000)
A third RADS employee: "There should be no smoking in any parts of the dorms." (Nov. 15, 2000)
Health effect of smoking on women smokers
Between 1960 and 1990, the death rate from lung cancer among women increased by more than 400 percent, and the rate is continuing to increase, according to a report from the Surgeon General.
In 1987, lung cancer surpassed breast cancer as the number one cause of cancer deaths among women. The American Cancer Society estimated that in 1998, lung cancer killed 67,000 women, and breast cancer killed 43,500 women.
More than 152,000 women died from smoking-related diseases in 1994 according to a report from the Surgeon General.
Smoking has a damaging effect on women's reproductive health and is associated with reduced fertility and early menopause.
Cigarette smoking is the single largest preventable cause of mortality and morbidity in the United States, according to the Surgeon General.
Section 3 of the Regulations requires that smoking be "prohibited in all areas of establishments that are open to those who are under the age of eighteen (18)." The Regulations do not define the term "establishment," but it seems to be a broad, general term for any building or activity. If so, it would seem to apply to "all areas" of the dormitories and to supersede the exemption for private residences within the dormitories, since the dormitories are open to persons under the age of eighteen. Read in this way, Section 3 would require the College to ban smoking in all areas of dormitories, including individual rooms -- Atty. Hamilton Doherty, Jr., Counsel to the College.
According to a study released in March 2001 by Harvard School of Public Health College Tobacco Study, colleges can significantly curb student tobacco use by offering smoke-free housing. The study revealed that students who enter college as nonsmokers are 40 percent less likely to begin smoking if they live in smoke-free dormitories than are students who live in unrestricted housing.
According to the American College Health Association, efforts to promote tobacco/smoke-free campuses have led to substantial reductions in the number of people who smoke, the amount of tobacco products consumed, and the number of people exposed to environmental tobacco hazard.
We reviewed the smoking policies on a variety of campuses. Looking at earlier policies in the Committee on Community Policy files and comparing them to those same campuses' current policies (a 5-year time frame) most campuses' policies have become more restrictive or now ban smoking entirely in the residences.
Letter from Dr. Leslie Jaffe, Director, of Health Services, to Raphael Atlas, Chair, Committee on Community Policy, dated Dec. 12, 1997, calling for a ban on smoking in the residences to follow up on the ban on smoking in all college academic and administrative buildings.
Letter from the Directors of Health Services at the 7 sister colleges, to the Presidents of the 7 sister colleges, dated Sept. 30, 1998, calling for the Presidents to make non-smoking the cultural norm on their campuses.
According to Nancy Asai, there are not enough nonsmoking rooms on campus to accommodate all requests.
Over the last five years, the Residence Life and Housing Office at Smith has seen a significant increase in the number of students inquiring about smoke-free houses for personal health and medical reasons in their housing assignments, again according to Nancy Asai.
Use of cigarettes by an average smoker destroys about one tree every 2 weeks.--SmokeBusters, England
72 percent of all the land used to grow tobacco is in Third World countries, where starvation is more common than in Western countries.
Cigarette butts take about 25 years to decompose--San Francisco Examiner, Sept. 13, 1996.
Tobacco production contributes to deforestation, soil erosion, flooding, the greenhouse effect and global warming--"Tobacco industry has global impact" TECC News: a newsletter of the Tobacco Education Clearinghouse of California, Winter, 1992.
About 40 percent of the world's tobacco is cured by burning wood and 12 percent of all trees cut down worldwide are used for curing tobacco--"Resisting tobacco in developing countries: working papers in support of the 8th world conference on tobacco or health: building a tobacco-free world," Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1992.
Tobacco Companies, Women and Smith College
Women have been extensively targeted in tobacco marketing. Such marketing is dominated by themes of an association between social desirability, independence, and smoking messages conveyed through advertisements featuring slim, attractive, and athletic models. In 1999, expenditures for domestic cigarette advertising and promotion was $8.24 billion-increasing 22.3 percent from the $6.73 billion spent in 1998, according to the Surgeon General's 2001 report on Women and Tobacco.
According to Jay Yoder, Director of Investments, in February 1997, the [Investment] Committee recommended--and the full Board of Trustees approved--the divestment of all tobacco holdings and the prohibition of future investment in tobacco companies.
Survey of students
332 students answered the December 2000 survey " Smoking in the residences" sent to all students by this committee, with more than 100 giving us written comments.
In the above survey, 34 percent of students responding prefer a complete ban on smoking in houses; 70 percent felt that there should be at least one non-smoking house in each residence section on campus.
Smokers were generally against any real change in polices, but were sensitive to nonsmokers' needs.
One complaint that came up frequently was the problem of smoking which goes on immediately outside of academic and administrative buildings, as well as the post office.
Both smokers and non-smokers frequently said they were not able to get the kind of room that fit their needs for smoking or not smoking.
They also wondered how any changes could be enforced since current policies are sometimes not enforced.
In the March 2001 Daily Jolt survey sponsored by this committee, with 944 students responding, 32 percent of students responding prefer a complete ban on smoking in houses; only 33 percent did not want any change made in the current policy.
1808 students answered the November 2000 Residential Life survey. 1412 defined themselves as non-smokers, 280 defined themselves as smokers, and 110 did not answer the question.
SGA forum: On February 27, 2001, the Student Government Association invited students to a forum on smoking policies on campus, particularly in residences. A total ban on smoking was felt to be unfair by most of those in attendance. Students also reiterated the problem of getting a smoking room when they were nonsmokers and vice versa.
CCWG: At the February 6 and 28, 2001 Campus Climate Working Group lunches a major topic for discussion was smoking in the residences. There was much more support for some change in the current situation than had been heard at the SGA Forum. Understandably the mixed nature of CCWG (faculty, staff, administration and students) may have had some effect on the number and tone of students' comments. At the SGA forum, with few outsiders in attendance, students, particularly smokers, spoke their minds.
Putting all of this together, we give you the following recommendations. The difficulty of enforcement of any new policies should be addressed by the Council and can be incorporated into the final recommendation. We offer possible suggestions at the end.
1. A total ban on smoking in all college-owned student residences effective August 19, 2002.
2. No smoking allowed within 20' of any academic, administrative or residential building effective immediately.
Remove ashtrays from directly outside of buildings.
Place "no smoking" signage at exits of buildings.
3. The committee considered the construction of smoking kiosks for smokers. However, the Campus Planning Committee was not in favor of them for a variety of reasons.
intrusiveness to the landscape.
requirement of paved walkways for handicapped access.
cost of construction and maintenance.
Recognizing the importance of giving due respect to the personal freedom of smokers to smoke if they wish, the committee urges the President and Senior Staff to consider creating a space or spaces on campus where they can continue to do so without harm to others.
4. Student education.
First years, '05's and later offer comprehensive smoking education, prevention and cessation programs as part of orientation. (Perhaps part of Smith Life & Learning Program.)
Republicize programs for those trying to quit.
5. Additional resources for smoking cessation programs be contributed by the College
Arguments have suggested that it would be much easier to gradually phase in a ban on smoking in the residences. According to Nancy Asai, presently at Smith, 2 out of the 35 houses (Lawrence and 150 Elm) voted to be non-smoking houses, leaving the majority of houses to have designated smoking floors and rooms. These designated areas are highly sought after during room draw, leaving students with frustration that there are not enough no-smoking rooms in the houses on each floor or wing. To respond to these needs, every year the housing office has designated additional no-smoking rooms. It has, however, been impossible, and has been met with opposition by students, to provide increased number of smoke-free accommodations in each area of campus and especially in the variety of living options available for our students. Students are unwilling to vote no smoking houses for fear of protest from smokers that their smoking rights would be violated. Our committee feels that Smith College can not continue to condone the poisoning of students and staff. We also cannot continue to break the law and violate our own current policies on workplace safety.
At forums and in surveys, students who smoked were particularly concerned with a rapid change in policy.
Phasing in a ban over a few years would require targeting residences. We could conceive of no method that was palatable to everyone.
Residences are students' "homes away from home," ergo; students deserve the right to smoke in their rooms.
Houses are not private homes. The college is responsible for providing a safe environment for their students, an environment that is free from harmful chemicals such as carbon monoxide, cadmium and the myriad of other carcinogens found in tobacco smoke. Cigarettes are a fire hazard, whether in public designated "smokers" or private rooms. Add alcohol to the mix and you increase the chances that a cigarette will be carelessly dropped and go unnoticed.
Students in private rooms should be able to smoke; they aren't bothering anyone.
In older houses, smoke can travel from room to room. In fact, when Smith College asked if their students were bothered by smoke from private dorm rooms in a random survey, over 40 percent responded, "yes."
If we ban smoking in houses, students will rise up in protest!
Harvard, Wellesley and other schools who have banned smoking have not experienced resistance or protest. In fact the Director of Harvard College Health Services says it has not even been an issue at his school.
Applications for admissions will decline if smoking is banned in all the residences.
According to the Director of Admissions at Wellesley, there has been no effect in applications numbers at Wellesley following the ban on smoking in the residences.
Enforcement of this policy relies on the thoughtfulness, consideration and cooperation of smokers and non-smokers for its success.
Security and self policing (outside of academic, administrative and residential buildings)
Residence life staff (Residence Coordinators, Head Residents, House Community Advisors and Area Coordinators)
Judicial board for students in houses and, if necessary, referral to College Judicial Board.
Mary Lou Bouley, Chair, Libraries
Nancy Asai, Student Affairs
Sandra Bycenski, ITS
Floyd Cheung, English Dept.
Rebecca Friedman '04
Maya Norton '02
Connie Peterson, Health Services
Erin Sikorsky '01
Cynthia Suopis, City of Northampton, Dept. of Public Health
Julia Wells '03
Katie Winger '01
Approved by the President's Senior Staff, Spring 2001