Widgets Magazine

Faculty Senate postpones vote on all-campus smoking ban

The Faculty Senate decided on Thursday to postpone a vote on an all-campus smoking ban, referring it to committees to consider alternatives. It also rejected a motion to support President John Hennessy’s Feb. 19 call to maintain thoughtful and civil discourse at Stanford.

The smoking ban was proposed by psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor Keith Humphreys in conjunction with the student group Tobacco Free Stanford. The ASSU Undergraduate Senate and the Graduate Student Council had already endorsed the proposal.

The current smoking policy is that smoking is generally permitted outdoors, except during organized events. Outdoor smoking must be at least 30 feet away from doorways, open windows, covered walkways and ventilation systems, according to the University website.

The main aspects Humphreys emphasized were that the ban respect the right of non-smokers to breathe clean air, reinforce healthy lifestyles and potentially assist individuals who are in the process of quitting smoking.  He also noted that many other universities, including Harvard, have already become non-smoking campuses.

Humphreys acknowledged possible counterarguments in his presentation but insisted on the freedom of non-smokers to live in a non-smoking environment. He emphasized that the ban applies to smoke, not the smokers themselves.

He also insisted that the measure would not lead to more bans on things like potato chips or sugary sodas.

“We’re intelligent people of goodwill,” he said of the Faculty Senate. “How many of you would vote to ban potato chips?”

Provost John Etchemendy Ph.D. ’82 was one of the major dissenters. He said that this issue has come up many times, but he has never decided to act on it.

He explained that “secondhand smoke is not an issue” on Stanford’s campus and that “you have to try hard to find a smoker and then stand next to them” to get significant exposure to it. He also mentioned that the other schools that have banned smoking do not have the large campus that Stanford has.

Decreasing the already low smoking rate at Stanford “is something we should do with education and encouragement but not laws or policies,” Etchemendy said.

Others voiced concerns that a ban like this would shame smokers, who might already feel ashamed and are trying to be considerate. One faculty member asked whether the Senate wants to get into the business of regulating these kinds of issues in general and compared the smoking issue to students’ not wearing bike helmets, drinking too much and texting while biking.

Other concerns included the distance that people would have to walk in order to smoke, especially for students studying in their dorm in the middle of the night. Another concern was that the ban might encourage people to break the current policy.

“If we didn’t allow them to smoke within 30 feet of the building and instead told them they had to travel half a mile, they’d be smoking inside,” said Ross Shachter, associate professor of management science and engineering.

There were also various supporters of the motion, including professor of microbiology and immunology Philip Pizzo, who was involved in banning smoking on the medical school’s campus in 2007, and others who defended the rights of non-smokers – especially individuals with asthma or lung problems – to breathe clean air.

Professor in medicine Julie Parsonnet, who is the Resident Fellow in Robinson House, said that smoking inside and outside the dorm “has been the biggest issue in the dorm in the last two years. We get complaints in Robinson literally every day about smoking.”

Ultimately, professor of pathology Andy Fire suggested that the Senate should refer the motion to committees to find a solution that would allow smokers to “continue to smoke without having to go off campus but could decrease the current level of smoking on campus.” The senate voted in favor of moving the motion to committees.

Jake Rosenberg, president of Tobacco Free Stanford, was disappointed by the Senate’s decision. He explained that secondhand smoke is “physically and medically hurting Stanford students.”

“It is a direct form of violence against students and is the difference between Stanford students making it to their 50th reunion or not,” Rosenberg said.

While Rosenberg recognized that a ban might be inconvenient for smokers, he said that this inconvenience was not comparable “when you weigh it against the fact that [secondhand smoke] will kill Stanford students.”

After the vote and during the “New Business” section of the meeting, biology professor Robert Simoni brought a motion that would encourage the Senate to support Hennessy’s call at the Feb. 19 Senate meeting to maintain thoughtful and civil discourse at Stanford.

Rush Rehm Ph.D. ’85, professor of theater & performing studies and of classics, quickly dissented on the basis that the action could stifle debate.

Associate professor of the Department of English Paula Moya said she thought that the motion seemed unnecessary.

This article has been corrected to reflect that professor of pathology Andy Fire suggested the Faculty Senate move the motion back to committee to find a new way to reduce smoking on campus. The Daily regrets this error. 

Contact Emma Neiman at eneiman ‘at’ stanford.edu.

  • Jon Krueger

    Once again I see Cal is well ahead of you

  • My thoughts

    A smoking ban is an unbelievable encroachment on freedom. I can think of a dozen times at most when I encountered second hand smoke at Stanford during my 4 years there, and most of those were outside of parties with people I chose to hang out with. It’s already hard enough for smokers to partake in that indulgence, having to go outside, often into the parking lot, and buy cigarettes off campus.

    And a smoking ban seems crazy considering how many students smoke weed and how relaxed the enforcement of the actual law is. It’s legal for adults to smoke cigarettes. It’s legal for them to drink alcohol. The current policy, 30+ ft away from buildings, is perfectly adequate.

    I’m not a smoker and I have reactive airways, but a smoking ban goes way too far.

  • real talk

    this does not include marijuana

  • what’s the point

    Then this hurts only the very few tobacco smokers on campus, which are too few for “secondhand smoking” to be a problem at all. How many times have you encountered secondhand smoke in Stanford?

  • Eusebius

    A+ for Etchemendy. You have to be invading someone’s personal space in order to be affected by their second hand smoke. I guarantee the complaints in Robinson are about people smoking pot, which smells to high heaven.

  • My thoughts

    Exactly. I know it doesn’t. Which I find insane, because there is much more secondhand smoke from the marijuana, an illegal drug, than there is from cigarettes, a legal drug, on campus. Smoke is smoke.

    Illegal smoke should probably be banned first, and if it is already banned, the enforcement has to go way up. Tons of people smoke weed in or right outside of buildings, yet if a cigarette smoker did that they’d get in trouble. Crazy.

    Why this Stanford group is targeting cigarettes, when a bunch of them probably smoke weed or tolerate those who do, is beyond me.

    Thanks goodness Etchemendy and some others in the Faculty Senate didn’t fall prey to these irrational campaigners.

  • Allan Marshall

    And why should they copy off colleges that idiotically adopted a tobacco free campus rule? At every college I’ve ever visited that was foolish enough to adopt such a rule, it’s always been ignored by smokers. A few very brief wisps of secondhand smoke(which anti-smoking activists always overblow, when exposure isn’t going to kill you and is a brief annoyance at best) outside has never hurt anyone, has it?