John James, Deputy President (Welfare), presented a controversial paper to central Union’s Representation and Welfare Board (RWB) last Thursday, calling for a ban on smoking on all Union premises, including Beit Quad. The paper asks the Union to: Implement a ban on smoking in any part of Union premises and a ban on the sale of tobacco by the Union and to lobby college to implement a smoke free campus.
During the meeting, concern was expressed that a ban on smoking in the Quad would result in smokers congregating by the entrance on Prince Consort Road or at the back of the Union building near the Albert Hall. Anyone entering the Union would still have to walk past smokers, as would pedestrians using the pavement.
John Silver, Deputy President (Education) expressed his dislike of people smoking in the Quad, implying he felt unable to ask them not to smoke near him. He said that he was put off going into the Quad because he “gets a face full of smoke” every time he walks through. This reporter wonders whether Mr Silver’s dislike of walking through the Quad may go some way to explain his sporadic attendance at the office.
A lot of people feel a student of Imperial College ought to be able to ask another to alter their behaviour, if they see it as offensive. As pointed out by non-smoker, Jess Poore: “If it’s got to the point where we can no longer rely on common courtesy and the ability to ask someone to move away from you if you find them smoking unpleasant, and instead need to enforce school-like rules, we should be concerned about the general conduct of our student population rather than a bit of smoke.”
Talking to students around campus, it appears there is little support for a full ban on smoking in the Quad, even among non smokers. Amanda Cheung told felix: “I think a full ban is a bit extreme but it would be nice if people who don’t smoke could sit outside without having to breathe in cigarette smoke, especially with the summer coming. How about implementing designated smoking in the Quad?” Smoker Matt Kaufeler joined a number of students in questioning the sanity of the motion telling felix: “If this is anything more than an attempt to stimulate a debate on smoking, then it is idiocy. A short term ban would probably be accompanied by a short term boycott, which may lead to a long term loss of custom”
The meeting resolved not to pass the paper, but to ask Council to vote on whether to hold a referendum on whether students want a smoke free campus at the next Council meeting on the 15th February. Any student may attend Council and voice their opinion, though only Council members can vote on whether to pass a paper.
Aside from soothing the sensitive nose of our DPE, many question the motivation of the paper and whether this is really one of the biggest Welfare issues affecting Imperial students. If the aim is to improve the atmosphere of the Union, the pools of snakebite and vomit, odour of student and general decor, should probably be attended to before smoke in the Quad. Alternatively, if the aim is to stop selling students products that may harm their health, I’m sure the Union has served me ‘meals’ that pose a far more imminent danger to my health than a few cigarettes would.