A proposal to ban smoking in all University residence halls was recently passed by the Residence Hall Association and is pending approval from the University Housing department.
RHA voted at its meeting last Thursday on two proposals about smoking in the residence halls. The first was designed to control smoking by requesting that all smoking rooms be designated in the top floor of every dorm. It failed in favor of the second proposal to ban smoking completely in all residence halls. Smoking would only be allowed in Northwood Family Housing on North Campus.
In addition, the proposal calls for a ban of smoking within a 10-foot radius of all residence halls. If passed by the housing department, the ban will go into effect in the fall of 2003.
“RHA has been trying to get this passed since last year,” said West Quad Residence Hall RHA representative Pragav Jain, an LSA sophomore. He said a similar proposal came up last year but failed to make the two-thirds majority needed to pass by one vote. This year, RHA found out they would need only a 50 percent majority for the proposal to pass.
Jain said even though residence halls are public facilities, RHA wanted to create a less toxic environment for students. Although the rights of smokers was a concern, it was decided that the detrimental effects of second-hand smoke infringes upon the rights of non-smokers because of the danger to their health.
Although only about 450 of the University’s 9,500 residence hall occupants reside in designated smoking rooms, interconnected air ducts allow secondhand smoke to circulate throughout residence halls so that non-smoking rooms can be affected.
Supporters of the proposal also cited the problem of fire alarms being set off by secondhand smoke and increased housing costs caused by furniture odor and having to repaint discolored walls every year.
The International Student Affairs Commission, of which Jain is chair, came up with a similar suggestion that he presented to RHA. Jain said he thinks the proposal will probably go into effect.
“Basically the housing office told RHA it is very much in favor of it,” he said.
The University of Michigan and Michigan State University are the only Big Ten schools that have not banned smoking in all their residence hall rooms. In the fall of 2001, the University had 69 applicants request smoking-permitted rooms. Smoking was banned in most University buildings in 1994.
South Quad Residence Hall resident and LSA sophomore Neil Malhotra said he is in favor of the new proposal because secondhand smoke can cause problems for people allergic to it and can set off fire alarms.
“I’d prefer it if the dorms were non-smoking,” he said.
-The Associated Press contributed to this report.