Going up in smoke

It’s a crisp fall afternoon at Ryerson University. Naked trees line the sidewalk as their branches frame the pathway, with students are walking around campus bundled up in thick jackets and tuques. As passers-by exhale, their breath comes out of their mouths and noses as a fluffy cloud. A young woman leaning against the Kerr Hall building digs through her large purse, pulls out a cigarette, and lights it up. As she sucks on her cigarette, she breathes out a different type of cloud – a cloud of smoke. Smoking is a common practice for students and faculty to do between classes or whenever they’re on the go. But pretty soon, you won’t be seeing people buying the cigarettes they crave for on post-secondary campuses anymore, even if it is the most convenient option.

As of Jan. 1, Ontario will be banning the sale of cigarettes on post-secondary school campuses. Earlier this month, the province also passed a ban for smoking at playgrounds, restaurant bars and patios, so smokers will have to “butt out.” This is all a part of an update to the Smoke-Free Ontario Act by the Liberal party. The act was initially introduced last fall, but the update died at the time the June 12 election was called. Soon, smokers on every post-secondary campus in Ontario won’t have access to cigarettes sold on campus whatsoever.

“Smoking is part of my day,” says Jordan Cornish, a third-year Ryerson student.

As a regular smoker, Cornish said she purchases cigarettes mostly at convenience stores and gas stations in her own neighbourhood. Currently, cigarettes are not sold at any Ryerson-affiliated building. However, students and faculty at Ryerson have a wide selection of off-campus retailers to choose from that are minutes away since the school is located in the heart of downtown Toronto. The nearest store to purchase cigarettes from is the Metro grocery store, located at Church and Gould Streets beside the Ryerson engineering building.

But not all schools have the easy access to stores that sell cigarettes like metropolitan-based Ryerson does.

Victoria Mundy, a first-year student at Brock University in St. Catharine’s, Ontario, says there’s not a lot of on-campus options. “I purchase cigarettes at Avondale Convenience, which is across the street but still on campus.” Even though she says they’ll stop selling cigarettes come Jan. 1, she’s determined to go out of her way for a pack of smokes – even if it may take more effort because her school is further from the big city. “I think the masses won’t bother going out of their way as most students are lazy,” she says. “But where there’s a will, there’s a way. It’s really easy to get to downtown St. Catharine’s. It’s one bus, so if I really need cigarettes I will go and get them.” Mundy added that if cigarette smoking were banned entirely from campus, she’d make the extra effort to go off campus to light up.

Although Ryerson students and faculty won’t be able to purchase cigarettes on campus anymore, they’re still allowed to smoke – with limitations. According to Ryerson’s associate director of risk management and prevention, Chris White, the City of Toronto quietly passed a city bylaw that people can’t smoke within nine metres of a building’s entrance. The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) plans to enforce this ban.

“At our annual general meeting, there was a motion passed to work towards making Ryerson campus a smoke-free campus. We want people that are choosing to not smoke to not be forced into spaces where people are smoking,” says RSU President Rajean Hoilett.

He also said that the resolution to further enforce this bylaw was passed just last week, so concrete plans of how they’ll do this have yet to be made. Some working ideas they have are to place signs near buildings to indicate the nine-metre distance near entrances and to educate students on the harm of cigarettes.

“I think that it’s important that we’re not penalizing students, but working to create spaces for folks that choose not to smoke and folks that choose to smoke on campus,” says Hoilett.

That’s not all that’s affected on Ryerson campus. Students won’t be able to smoke on the patio at the Ram in the Rye due to the smoke-free patio ban imposed on Nov. 7. For some students like Cornish, this won’t deter her from going to the campus pub for her social outings. “I don’t think [the ban] would make me less likely to go to the Ram in the Rye…when I’m going to places like that, it’s usually for a social engagement, so I don’t like to let smoking get in the way of the everyday things I do.” But this isn’t the case for all students.

Emily Woloszuk, a third year Ryerson student, would go elsewhere for her social outings because of a smoke-free patio. “F*** I’m so pissed! Alcohol makes you want to smoke, and you can’t now. I would not go to the Ram in the Rye. They would lose my business entirely.” The campus pub might lose some business from certain students who are like-minded with Woloszuk, but this is the cost to pay for a smoke-free province.

By not being able to smoke at restaurant bars, patios, or playgrounds, Ontario is encouraging health, which actually may persuade people like Cornish to quit. She said that by making it harder to buy cigarettes, she’s more likely to quit because it’ll make it difficult to get back into smoking. “I think it’s a great thing,” she says. Cornish has tried to quit smoking in the past, but overtime she’d just pick it up again – something she doesn’t want to do anymore. On the other hand, Woloszuk feels that a ban can change a person so much. “Unless you truly want it for yourself, no ban, no sort of tax increase, nothing your mom will say will change your mind,” she says. For her to quit smoking, the urge would have to come from within.

Tobacco-related illnesses cost the Ontario healthcare system an estimated $2.2 billion in direct costs a year, with an estimated $5.3 billion in loss of productivity from being ill, according to the Canadian government. Going smoke-free improves your health, and can save you from breaking the bank. “[Smoking] would definitely be something to consider quitting,” says Cornish.


[P]hoto: Ryersonian.com