Smoking Out Broad Street

Holly Rothbard

This summer, members of the Colgate administration had to take quick action in response to a new addition to the 2003 New York State Clean Indoor Air Act. The amendment laid down a ban on smoking in any “dorms, residence halls or group residential facilities” at all public and private universities and had to be in effect by August 15. This meant that all Colgate-owned houses on Broad Street had to become smoke free.

Broad Street buildings were the last ones on the campus to allow smoking on their premises. Since the 2006-2007 school year, the Student Government Association (SGA) and the Wellness Initiative have been working to make all Colgate residences smoke-free.

“We decided that a campus-wide smoking ban would not be practical or received well and found that the best approach would be to stagger it,” Vice President and Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson said.

The process has been a gradual one, with the last place to cover being Broad Street. Part of the Broad Street Initiative program is the idea of self-governance, so until this year students living in the houses were able to vote on whether they wanted to allowing smoking or not. Now, all buildings on campus or owned by Colgate are smoke-free.

The amendment is meant to further reduce the effects of secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reported that an estimated 60,000 deaths each year result from secondhand smoke.

Colgate had from the middle of July to August 15 to go about making all of Broad Street smoke-free. Scott Brown, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students, headed a committee in order to implement the change.

“We had representatives from many departments and kept the student perspective, though we had to press on quickly over the summer. This included Buildings and Grounds, Residential Life, Human Resources and Greek Life/ Broad Street,” Brown said.

Fortunately, residents of the Broad Street houses have been understanding and accepting of the work necessitated by the new amendment. According to Brown and Johnson, there has been no negative reaction to the changes among students. Neither believed there would be, however: “It is only a minor modification of an existing law,” Brown said. Rather, the Colgate community has been pleased with the update to the campus, once they heard about it.

“I think it’s a good move toward an ultimately smoke-free campus. It’s a stupid habit, and you can still smell it on people even after they come in from smoking outside. If they can ban marijuana I don’t understand why they don’t ban cigarettes,” sophomore Monica Sanders said.

Student Government Association President, senior David Kusnetz, took another view: “I think the administration should focus on engaging students and helping them quit rather than just not letting it be seen around campus. If this school is serious about an anti-smoking policy, it has to become more comprehensive and offer resources to end the habit. Colgate is one of the last universities in the country to still allow smoking in and around its property.”

The committee put together over the summer is continuing to work on ways to help Broad Street accommodate the smoke-free lifestyle. Members are considering putting smoking urns and receptacles outside of houses. However, according Dean Johnson, the topic is still in very much in discussion.

“There are important placement and cost issues dealing with the urn idea. If the urns are too close to porches and doorways, there will still be a secondhand smoke issue. Also, we are not sure if we want to expend a significant amount of resources to promote an unhealthy habit,” she said.

The new non-smoking policy will be strictly and firmly enforced. Information on the new rule can be found on page 96 of the Colgate Student Handbook.

“Our expectation is that all students will follow the policy, and this will be enforced similarly to the alcohol policy,” Brown said.