The University of Toronto has announced plans to implement a broad smoking ban on its three campuses beginning next year. If approved, the new policy would apply to the smoking or holding of lit tobacco or cannabis products, and the use of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices. The university’s Governing Council is expected to consider the policy for approval at a meeting next month.
Smoking as a part of Indigenous ceremonies or for medicinal purposes would be exempted from the ban. Each campus will be allowed to determine whether to establish transitional outdoor designated smoking areas when the policy is first implemented.
Healthy Campus Initiative
Kelly Hannah-Moffat, vice president of human resources and equity, said that the new policy is an attempt to provide a healthier environment for the university’s students and staff.
“The main motivation for this policy is to have healthier campuses,” said Hannah-Moffat. “The health hazards of smoking and second-hand smoke are well-documented.”
Hannah-Moffat noted that the recent legalization of cannabis was a factor in the update of the university’s current smoking policy, which is nearly 25 years old.
“Our existing smoking policy is decades old and recent changes by the provincial government that allow smoking of cannabis in public spaces may increase the risk of exposure to second-hand smoke,” Hannah-Moffat added. “We feel this change is consistent with our goal to have a healthy campus environment.”
Smoking is linked to approximately 37,000 deaths each year, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. Smoking is responsible for 85 percent of lung cancer deaths and 30 percent of deaths from all cancers. Each year, 800 Canadian non-smokers die from cancer or heart disease caused by second-hand smoke.
The University of Toronto will offer support to students, faculty, and staff who wish to quit smoking. A smoking cessation program including drug coverage and pharmacist counseling is available to faculty and staff while students may receive help at health and wellness centers on all three of the university’s campuses.
Planning Began Last Year
The university has been working on the new smoking policy for more than a year. In September 2017, after McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, announced a total prohibition on smoking that began this year, officials at the University of Toronto said a similar ban was forthcoming. Althea Blackburn-Evans, director of media relations, said then that the new smoking policy was already being drafted.
“It’s really early stages, and so there are still a lot of discussions continuing,” Blackburn-Evans said. “It’s really premature to talk about what the plan will look like in the end, and when it’ll be finalized.”
Blackburn-Evans noted that the new policy was being created with the eventual legalization of cannabis in mind.
“We are watching closely for updates on the federal government’s proposed legislation, because however the province and the municipalities implement it, it will have implications on whatever we decide to do here,” Blackburn-Evans said.
Mathias Memmel, the president of the University of Toronto Students’ Union, applauded the news of the upcoming ban on smoking.
“This is a good move on the university’s part,” Memmel said. “At the risk of stating the obvious, smoking is unambiguously bad and should be discouraged.”