Reaction to smoking ban mixed
The University's "Smoke Free in 2003" ban on cigarette sales and smoking in and around residence halls has caused a mixed reaction on campus. Some students have embraced the smoking ban, while others have not. Still others believe that smoking should be banned from the residence halls, but the Eagle's Nest should still sell cigarettes.
"It's a pain...to go off campus to buy cigarettes," said graduate student Craig Staab, a smoker who said the ban would not seriously deter anyone from smoking. "Not selling cigarettes on campus is just an inconvenience." Some smokers and non-smokers said that the ban on smoking in and around the residence halls wasn't "that big of a deal."
"Personally, [the smoking ban] doesn't bother me," said freshman smoker Laura Goodell. "It's an excuse for me to get some fresh air and come outside." Goodell said she doesn't feel inconvenienced by the ban, but has concerns about what will happen during inclement weather.
Members of AU's international community have reacted somewhat differently to the ban, some expressing surprise and bewilderment at the anti-smoking policies that have emerged on campus and in some areas of the United States, including neighboring Montgomery County, Md. and New York City.
"It's not fair that they still sell beer in the Tavern and they took away our cigarettes," said Karleana Lahens, a sophomore from Puerto Rico. "Please sell cigarettes on campus again, I'm begging," she said.
Other international students support the ban. Yasuna Orai, a student from Japan, said she is "tired of being around smokers." Orai added that people can easily obtain a pack of cigarettes from vending machines for about $2 in Japan, where the age limit of 20 is rarely enforced. "Much more people care about smoking here in America," she said.
AU administrators said that the decision to implement the "Smoke Free in 2003" ban stemmed from the increase in requests for smoke-free housing, and decreased interest in smoking floors.
Other factors included student complaints about second-hand smoke, damage to carpets in Leonard Hall, which cost $8,000 to replace, and a fire in Letts Hall caused by an errant cigarette, according to the University. Julie Weber, executive director of Housing and Dining Programs, said there has been a "non-reaction" from students regarding the new policies.
"It didn't seem appropriate that the University [profited] from cigarette sales," said Weber, of the decision to halt cigarette sales in the Eagle's Nest. Weber cited selling alcohol in the Tavern as a different issue. "Responsible use of alcohol is not a health problem," she said.
Eagle's Nest employees have expressed less than enthusiasm about the new policy.
Eagle's Nest cashier Latoya Meyers said she commonly gets a statement like, "'Oh my God! ... You all don't sell cigarettes anymore?'" from students. "They're in shock," she said.
Manager Diaa Rishmani was shocked by the decision as well. He can't believe the amount of money his store is losing, he said. "I wasn't happy with the decision. As a store, it affects our profits. We did lose a lot of sales and customers," he said.
Rishmani declined to specify the amount of money lost by not selling cigarettes, but he said cigarette sales made "a couple hundred thousand" dollars last year.
"Is [the ban] going to affect the smokers in the school? I doubt it," said Rishmani. "They will buy them some place else."
Based on increased cigarette sales reported by local gas stations and convenience stores, Rishmani's prediction seems to be true. The CVS near the Washington College of Law was reported to have sold out their cigarette stocks in the first days of the ban.
The "Smoke Free in 2003" campaign is not the first of its kind. Smoking was banned from AU at its inception. Eventually smoking became acceptable on campus, until the late 1980s when the District passed a law requiring buildings to designate smoking and smoke-free areas. As a result of that law, AU completely banned smoking from buildings, except residence halls, said Jorge Abud, assistant vice president of Facilities and Administrative Services, who started working at AU in 1979. Though the new policy was generally accepted by students and staff, "there were cases where people continued to smoke in the buildings [after it was banned]," said Abud.