By Shloka Nath, News Editor, MPP’13
As of March 1st, Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government will join a slew of campuses across the U.S. in instituting a full smoking ban across its campus. The new policy, which closely aligns with similar changes at the Harvard Medical School, will ban smoking on all campus property, including the courtyard, and prohibit smoking within 25 feet of building entrances, outdoor air intakes and windows. This new policy was the recommendation of a Smoking Task Force—consisting of HKS faculty, staff members and students—which convened in October of last year.
“We make this move to promote good health and to reduce any impacts from smoke upon our staff, faculty and students. And we do so following decades of research on the negative impacts of smoking and second-hand smoke,” says John A. Haig, Executive Dean, Harvard Kennedy School. “While we admit that the policy may cause some inconvenience for smokers, we feel that those are outweighed by the positive benefits of a smoke-free campus for all of the people who work, study at, and visit our facilities.”
As of July 1, 2011, there were more than 500 college campuses across the country that had enacted 100% tobacco free campuses. While the policy implementation differs from school to school, most of them ban smoking on all campus grounds, including athletic stadiums and even restaurants and parking lots. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approximately 46 million Americans age 18 and older smoke cigarettes. A 2010 American College Health Association report found that out of 30,093 students surveyed at 39 colleges, 4.4% had smoked every day in the past 30 days. This, despite the first Surgeon General Report declaring the negative effects of smoking in 1964, and the fact that smoking has become “socially less tolerable” among people of all ages, especially college students.
“Honestly, it really bothers me, all these kids who stand out in the courtyard and smoke,” says one HKS student who didn’t wish to be named. “I used to feel unclean, now I can’t wait as I can finally walk out of class and get some fresh air.”
But it wasn’t until the early 2000s that 100% smoke-free campuses began popping up across the United States. Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield, Missouri, started the first smoke-free campus in 2003. Today it is rare to find smokers anywhere on campus.
Regardless of the health benefits, opponents argue that smoke-free policies infringe on people’s rights. “How can the University decide how I ought to look after my health and my body?” says another HKS student who is against the smoking ban and asked to remain anonymous. “Smoking is a personal choice. And anyway, any time you tell people not to do something they do it regardless. So this whole thing doesn’t make any sense.”