Opinion: Smokers vs. Non-Smokers, An Ongoing Conflict Over Smoke Spaces On Campus

If you’ve read the recent Missed Connections, then you are quite aware of the discourse between smokers and non-smokers on campus. From an MC on August 31, 2022, which called for Reedies to stop smoking in front of Commons, a full-blown war began, with smokers and non-smokers alike posting anonymous (and not anonymous) MCs bashing each other. In order to find a solution, it is important to get down to the root of the issue. Why are Reedies inclined to smoke in spaces that are not meant for them? While one conclusion may be just because they want to, another option could be due to a lack of designated smoke spaces. 

Steve Yeadon, Director of Facilities Services, gave insight into this issue. First, explaining the reason smoke benches are in existence, he said, “A number of years ago when state and county public smoking laws/ordinances changed, the College fell under the scrutiny of the Multnomah County health inspector. The inspector was diligent in enforcing compliance and restrictions for smoking around campus, and, as a result, it was determined that it would be beneficial to install a few smoking shelters around campus. The Dean of Students was tasked with determining the location of these shelters which resulted in the locations that we find today. This was no easy task given the concerns of non-smokers on campus and the relative proximity to their offices, classrooms, and living spaces. Once the task force identified these locations, Facilities built and installed them.”

    While these smoke places are very important to have, and something that would create a greater issue amongst campus if taken away, they have not been without controversy.

“Concerns still remain around these locations and conversations about the need and or removal of these structures come up occasionally, usually in regard to removing them due to non-smoker requests.”

In an attempt to continue being able to smoke on campus while following campus rules about smoking, some students have attempted to email facilities about adding more smoke spaces, as information has circulated around campus that students can personally request smoke shacks/benches to be put in certain locations. Yeadon confirmed that this is something that comes up often, though can usually not be fulfilled because other students have petitioned against the building/placing of them;

 “2 years ago, ResLife made a request to install a shelter near the bouncy bridge between the Grove and Trillium for smokers to use in that area as students were frequently smoking on the patios around Trillium. Facilities were brought into the discussion in order to appropriately identify a suitable spot and to propose building/installation. An immediate response from students living in the area was to abandon this idea, in fact, students petitioned RL to discontinue this plan based on the needs of non-smokers in the area. The basic ‘needs of the many’ outweigh the ‘needs of the few.’”

While this information suggests that a solution to this problem is not in the cards, at least anytime soon, it is still important to stop this conflict before it escalates even further. Smokers and non-smokers can and should coexist, and Reedies; please just chillax, follow the rules, be respectful of others, and go touch some grass!

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