Clearing the Air:
Dorm Smoking Banned

Campus Living | Students used to smoking in their rooms will have to seek another place to light up if they live on campus. Starting this fall, smoking will be banned in the college houses, even if roommates give their consent.

Penn’s Undergraduate Assembly, along with the University Council Committee on the Quality of Student Life, recommended the policy change to housing officials following a student survey that showed concerns about secondhand smoke and wide support for such a ban.

“Basically it came down to a set of competing interests,” said Dr. Philip Nichols, an associate professor of legal studies who also serves as faculty director of College Houses and Academic Services and faculty master of Stouffer College House. “In the college houses, smoke cannot be contained to a room [because of the ventilation systems]. So you’ve got the interests of people who want to smoke and interests of people who don’t want to breathe cigarette smoke, whether for health reasons or the reason that it’s just plain annoying. It seemed the set of people who do not smoke have the better claim.” Nichols pointed out that there are “magnitudes more” of non-smokers and “smoking is portable, whereas living is not.”

The measure also had the backing of the Alcohol and Other Drug Task Force —according to Nichols, the ban applies to all types of smoke—as well as Student Health and the Office of Fire Safety and Risk Management.

Among the critics of the smoking ban quoted in The Daily Pennsylvanian was Ariel Ben-Amos C’04, a resident adviser in Ware College House. RAs “are not necessarily going to be happy about having to add this to our responsibilities,” he told the DP, calling it “an extension of the University’s policy of having to be everyone’s parent.”

Nichols, however, doesn’t think the ban will turn RAs into enforcement officers. He likened it to a policy against loud music, where infractions often are dealt with between neighbors without any need for higher-level intervention.

The object isn’t “to jackboot down every door and fine every transgression,” Nichols says. “Our goal [in the college houses] is to facilitate community, and to the extent that someone’s behavior is inimical to that community, then the behavior will be dealt with.”S.F.

2004 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 02/27/04


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