Taking Notes: Eye on Education – University No-Smoking Policies

This column focuses on a wide range of issues affecting post-secondary students. Students are encouraged to submit suggestions and educational topics they are concerned about, or personal experiences with courses or university situations they feel other students should know about. If suggest a topic or a course alert for Taking Notes, contact djabbour@ausu.org

In Alberta two universities have recently updated their no-smoking policies to further prohibit or restrict smoking on campus, and in and around student residences. Health and environmentally-conscious student unions at these universities have implemented smoking bans in all student-union facilities and events, limited sales of cigarettes in the student union building, and placed restrictions or bans on smoking in SU-managed bars/pubs. Many of these initiatives have been assisted by ASH (Action on Smoking & Health). ASH reports that according to Health Canada “30 percent of Albertans aged 20-24 are smokers,” representing the highest smoking rate of any age group (Health Canada, 2002). They cite evidence that tobacco companies target post-secondary students with marketing strategies that include special event sponsorship, scholarships and on-campus product placements (Ling & Glantz, 2002).

Athabasca University was one of the first Alberta universities to implement firm no-smoking policies back in 1996 (U of A did so in 1994), and they consider the policy so serious that “smoking in prohibited areas” represents a non-academic misconduct offense subject to disciplinary action.

Of course, just banning smoking is not enough. Out of recognition that smoking is a difficult addiction to conquer, some universities provide smoking cessation programs for students and staff, and health plan coverage for stop smoking aids. This is an initiative that should be lauded and strongly supported.

Unfortunately, in spite of the implementation of no-smoking policies, most universities still do not have a policy in place that prohibits acceptance of donations and grants or sponsorship by tobacco companies. At Athabasca University the Donation Acceptance Policy is in the process of being updated. It requires that each potential donation is individually assessed to ensure compliance with certain guidelines.

But the question is obvious. Given the dire financial straits most Canadian universities find themselves in – will we ever see a widespread implementation of policies prohibiting acceptance of funding from tobacco companies?

Action on Smoking & Health (ASH). http://www.ash.ca
Health Canada, Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey Annual Results 2002.
Ling, PM & Glantz SA (2002). Why and how the tobacco industry sells cigarettes to young adults: evidence from industry documents. American Journal of Public Health, 2002 Jun;92(6):908-16.
Student Code of Conduct and Right to Appeal, Athabasca University

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