Keep Your Distance: Proposal would widen smoke-free radius

A new policy may be adopted that would require smokers to stand at least 25 feet (shaded in red) from entrances to buildings on the Lawrenceville campus.
A new policy may be adopted that would require smokers to stand at least 25 feet (shaded in red) from entrances to buildings on the Lawrenceville campus.

by Emily Landgraf

Smokers may soon find themselves standing 25 feet from the entrances of buildings on the Lawrenceville campus.
The completion of the West Village Commons has caused administrators to reconsider the university’s smoking policy because the new buildings are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) compliant. This means that their design and construction practices should increase profitability while reducing the negative environmental impacts of buildings and improving health and well-being, according to the National Resources Defense Council.
Therefore, smokers would be required to maintain a mandatory distance of 25 feet from all entrances. The current university policy mandates that smokers stay a minimum of 10 feet away from all residence halls and Greek houses.
Requiring a 25-foot buffer zone around the new apartments is a necessary step that the university must take in order to receive LEED certification, but administrators are considering if smokers should be required to maintain this new distance from all on-campus buildings.
“This is not state law, but if schools continue to take proactive measures such as this, it is likely the state may react and update language,” Director of University Standards Keith Kemo wrote in an e-mail.
New Jersey’s Smoke Free Air Act does not have a smoking distance regulation. However, other states have adopted such rules. In California, smoking is prohibited within 20 feet of any door, window or air intake of any government building, buildings owned or occupied by government entities, public universities or public buildings leased to private firms.
Changes to the smoking policy at Rider have already been discussed and approved at last week’s Lawrenceville Student Senate meeting. Kemo discussed the proposed changes with the Senate.
The consensus at the Senate meeting seemed to be approval for the policy.
The Westminster SGA is also working on a revised smoking policy, said freshman SGA senator Dan Halbstein. The Westminster Senate is proposing a plan to have one designated spot for smoking on campus.
“[Smoking] is especially a problem on the campus of a Choir College, where all students are required to use their voices to sing at least four times a week, if not more,” Halbstein said.
On the Lawrenceville campus, there were concerns about how enforceable this new rule would be. According to Kemo, it will come down to whether or not individuals on campus report policy violations.
“Public Safety does their patrols, but they’re on the look out for a lot of things,” Kemo said.
Individuals will have to take it upon themselves to call Public Safety if they see violations of the policy.
“While I know the university does not have the resources to fully enforce the rule, this should not be the guiding factor,” Pawelko said. “[The] focus should be on changing the culture through selective enforcement and improving the health of the buildings and the people they house.”
There was also some concern over zoning issues.
“There are a lot of areas, especially by the quad, where the non-smoking areas will overlap,” Kemo said. “So there will be some non-smoking areas on campus.”
The receptacles for cigarettes that are within 25 feet of the buildings will eventually be removed, and Facilities Management will be placing notices in areas where smoking is prohibited, Kemo said.
“This is a living community and we must treat it as such and protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air,” Pawelko said. “The bottom line is that it’s truly the right thing to do.”
However, not everyone is thrilled about the modifications to the smoking policy.
“Since the new buildings on campus have certain ordinances they have to follow, I can understand why the university has to impose a 25-foot distance from vents, windows and such for smokers,” said freshman Max Zadvornyy.
But according to Zadvornyy, adding another 15 feet to the other buildings would be adding insult to injury.
“Walking around campus with a cigarette should not be a problem,” he said. “It’s bad enough being treated like I have the plague already.”
The university will be gradually easing into the new policy, Kemo said. It will take some time to update The Source, the student handbook, and to get notifications to students.

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