Ottawa

Algonquin College to go smoke-free before marijuana legalization

Algonquin College will become the first post-secondary institution in the Ottawa area to go completely smoke-free, following the province's decision to loosen cannabis rules.

Decision made after provincial government loosens rules

Earlier this fall, Algonquin College announced that smoking cannabis and tobacco anywhere on campus will be prohibited from Oct. 15, 2018, to Jan. 1, 2019. The college is now soliciting feedback about making the campus smoke-free. (Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press)

Algonquin College will become the first post-secondary institution in the Ottawa area to go completely smoke-free, following the province's decision to loosen cannabis rules.

The Progressive Conservative government announced Sept. 26 that once it's legal, smoking marijuana will be permitted wherever tobacco smoking is allowed — with the exception of vehicles that are being operated.

That policy is in stark contrast to the rules proposed by the former Liberal government, which would have restricted marijuana smoking to private residences only.

On Friday, Algonquin College announced an interim policy that would ban smoking at their Ottawa, Perth and Pembroke campuses starting Oct. 15.

The change to the provincial rules caught administrators off-guard, said college president Cheryl Jensen.

"We were under the impression that ... the rules would be very similar to drinking," Jensen said. "When that went away, there was no appetite at the college for having marijuana smoked everywhere."

There will be no more smoking on Algonquin College campuses starting next Monday. Algonquin's president tells us about enforcing a smoking ban at the college. 5:01

According to a September 2018 report from the Canadian Cancer Society, only four other post-secondary institutions in Ontario have smoke-free campus policies: McMaster University, George Brown College, Redeemer University College and Western University.

Both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa have said marijuana use will be prohibited on their campuses, but they will still allow tobacco smoking. 

La Cité collégiale said smoking marijuana will be allowed in a specific area on its campus. 

Algonquin College president Cheryl Jensen said the school was caught a bit unprepared by the province's decision to expand the rules around where legal cannabis could be smoked. (Roger Dubois/CBC)

Policy a 'soft launch'

Algonquin College was already in the process of reviewing its smoking rules, Jensen said, and had planned to consult with students and faculty before putting a new policy in place.

That consultation process will still go forward, she said, but in the meantime the interim policy will be in place.

"[It's] a sort of soft launch," Jensen said. "We'll spend that time talking to our students, talking to our employees about how this is going to look in the coming months."

Administrators will also assess the need for an expansion of the college's current smoking cessation programs, she added.

Algonquin College is poised to institute a permanent smoking policy on Jan. 1. (CBC)

Emphasis on education, not fines

Given the short notice about the new policy, Algonquin will be "taking a lighter approach to enforcement during this interim period," according to a release from the college.

Instead of taking punitive measures against on-campus smokers, the interim policy will instead serve as an opportunity for education, Jensen said.

"Everyone will be giving friendly reminders to people that it is a smoke-free campus," she said.

It might make some smokers and possibly some weed smokers angry, but I think it's necessary.- Renato Giamberardino, Algonquin College student

Michael Yin, an Algonquin student and a smoker, said he's behind the ban — and that if he needs to light up, he can just step off campus.

"I think it's a good thing," he said. "Even though I'm a smoker, I'll be supportive."

Fellow student Renato Giamberardino, a non-smoker, said the new policy will hopefully eliminate exposure to second-hand smoke.  

"It might make some smokers and possibly some weed smokers angry," Giamberardino said. "But I think it's necessary."

Algonquin College is expected to have a permanent policy in place by Jan. 1, 2019.