President Alan Shepard is not looking to forcibly enforce Quebec’s Tobacco Act, despite the risk of second-hand smoke and the violation of the Tobacco Act’s regulations.
“All institutions struggle with the issue, it’s not just Concordia,” said Shepard. “It would be for all public and probably private institutions as well.”
Concordia University is subject to the Quebec Tobacco Act under Chapter 2, Paragraph 3, Section 2 and 2.2, which states that “smoking is prohibited outdoors within a nine-metre radius from any door leading to a place referred to in paragraph 1,3,4, or 6 of section 2.”
The university has placed cigarette butt receptacles outside the radius, however, faculty, students and staff often smoke within the radius.
“On a voluntary basis, you ask people to respect the rules and in my experience most people do,” said Shepard. “Our security officers, if they do see people smoking inside the magic ring, do ask people to stop or to move.”
Even when smokers stand outside the nine-metre radius, individuals are still subjected to the smoke as they navigate their way to the entrances. On the downtown campus, in particular, sidewalk space is limited and this provides very little options for people to access Concordia’s buildings without coming into contact with smokers.
“Research shows that second-hand smoke is damaging to health. So if a person is exposed to second-hand smoke because they have to cut through a waft of smoke to get into the building, then that does have a negative effect on their health,” explained Gabriella Szabo, Concordia’s health promotion specialist.
Shepard recognizes that second-hand smoke on campus is an issue but doesn’t feel there’s anything more the university can do about it,
“It’s a reality of modern life that there’s second-hand smoke out there. I don’t like breathing it anymore than you do but would that mean that I should have police officers standing in the bus line? No, I don’t think so. I think peer pressure works better than compliance officers.”
According to Szabo, the nine-metre radius serves not only as a barrier for protecting the health of non-smokers but also acts as a deterrent for smokers.
“It just creates this little extra barrier, this little inconvenience where people, the smoker, recognizes more and more that this cigarette isn’t doing anything for me,” she said. “Now I even have to move nine-metres away instead of standing where I used to stand.”
Although cigarette butt receptacles on campus are placed outside the nine-metre radius, the benches beside said receptacles, in particular the benches in front of the Hall building, are not. Therefore smokers who want to use those benches are in violation of the law.
Shepard is also not worried by the mess smokers leave when they neglect to use the proper receptacles.”
“I think our teams do a pretty awesome job of keeping this place clean. I’ve worked at several universities and both inside and out, the teams who do maintenance and the cleanup do a great job.”
For the moment, Shepard is satisfied that security is doing its job and hopes that members of the Concordia community will voluntarily comply with the rules.
“We’re not going to get into the business of issuing fines or citations,” he said. “I don’t know that that would actually provide the kind of deterrence you want. What I would really like is voluntary compliance and I think we mostly get that.”