The other week, the idea of banning smoking in our Union Quad was mooted. On Monday, a proposal will be made to the Council to pass this into Union rules. This appears to me to be very ill thought- out, and hopefully after reading this article, it will to you too.
To begin with a disclaimer: yes, I do enjoy having an occasional cigarette with my pint, and my face will be amongst those on the benches shivering the winter through. But my objection to a ban goes beyond “I’m too lazy to leave the quad to smoke”.
The paper intends to be acting for the welfare of Union members, by discouraging them from smoking, and also allowing non-smokers a more pleasant environment. It says that smokers block the entrances, restricting access. It also states that since the 2006 national smoking ban, bar takings have actually increased, with the implication that a further increase will result from a total ban.
At the moment, smokers usually sit on the benches on the north side of the quad. Generally, there is little conflict of smokers and non-smokers, as it’s usually too cold to go outside for no reason. Even come the summer, people are generally decent enough to respect each other’s rights, both their right to smoke, and their right not to be forced to breathe other’s smoke. Everything is fairly peachy.
Banning an activity will never stop its practice, merely move its location. The consequence of a ban would be that people would have to go out onto the street to smoke, most likely Prince Consort Rd. I doubt this small inconvenience will persuade anyone to give up smoking (more likely they will give up coming to the Union). What is inevitable is a sizeable crowd outside the main gates. This will restrict access worse than the present situation. Smokers and non-smokers alike will have to barge their way through a crowd of (in all likelihood) drinkers, a poor welcome to our Union.
There will be a constant flux of people entering and leaving the Union, increasing the workload on the door staff. It will also bring loud talking right under the noses of Beit residences. At least only the rear bedrooms are currently disturbed by the nocturnal activities at the Union, moving smoking to the street will bring similar disturbances to the front bedrooms. There would also be a huge increase in litter on the streets, souring our relations with neighbours and the council. Also, policing this ban would fall to the stewards, who already have their work cut-out with the thankless task of keeping us all safe whilst we drink. I think these effects would far outweigh the benefits of a smoke-free quad, and maybe few less smokers.
I think the overall result of a ban would be more work for Union staff, more disturbances for more Beit residents and greater inconvenience for non-smokers, with very few people actually giving up and at the cost of some loss of custom. A ban would simply be counter-productive, despite being (laudably) intended to improve students’ lives, in fact, there will be a net decrease in the overall quality of life. As a further point, I don’t think it is the Union’s place to be dictating our lifestyle choices, and doing so on the grounds of health seems incongruous in a place with frequent “all you can drink” bar nights. I urge you to think about the consequences of this ban, and don’t allow it to pass Council.