George Brown College latest campus in GTA to stamp out smoking

George Brown College is going completely smoke-free on Monday. That includes tobacco and cannabis products. It's just one of many post-secondary institutions banning smoking and vaping tobacco and cannabis products.

More Toronto post-secondary institutions adopting smoke-free policies

George Brown College in Toronto has gone smoke-free which includes smoking and vaping tobacco and cannabis on all campus locations. (Colin Perkel/Canadian Press)

George Brown College is the latest Canadian post-secondary institution to go completely smoke-free, starting Monday.

The move includes smoking or vaping tobacco and cannabis substances at all campus locations.

People who wish to smoke can still do so on sidewalks that are city property, but must stay at least nine metres away from college entrances. The ban also extends to cars parked on college property.

"I think a lot of people now take exception to being exposed to second-hand smoke," said George Brown president Anne Sado. "This is another step in ensuring we have the best environment for our students and staff."

The school is also implementing more services to help people quit smoking.

New rules ahead of pot legalization

Sado says George Brown's full policies on pot will continue to evolve after cannabis becomes legal in October, but that the school is trying to "make it simple [by having] one overarching policy" for all smoking.

That reflects a growing trend for Canadian colleges and universities. While several campuses across the country already had smoke-free policies related to tobacco in place, more and more are implementing policies that include cannabis.

Hamilton's McMaster University declared itself Ontario's first "100 per cent tobacco and smoke-free campus" as of Jan. 1, 2018. Its ban includes cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, mini-cigars, pipes, water pipes, hookah, shisha, pot and vaping.

The University of Toronto is reviewing its smoking policy on all three of its campuses. In an email, a university spokesperson says smoking is already not allowed in buildings or in residences.

Students living in U of T residences already sign contracts agreeing not to smoke in their rooms. (Katherine Holland/CBC)

Regarding cannabis, the spokesperson says that "under Ontario's Cannabis Act, use of cannabis will be banned in all workplaces and public spaces. At U of T, that includes offices, classrooms, libraries, athletic facilities, and campus grounds."

Students living in U of T residences already sign contracts agreeing not to smoke in their rooms, and that will now include smoking cannabis.

A statement from a spokesperson for Ryerson's Public Affairs Department says that school is "in the process of getting ready for the new cannabis legislation. There is an internal working committee examining the university's administrative policies that are impacted as a result of legalization."

At Sheridan College, spokesperson Susan Atkinson says in an email "we are currently reviewing our smoke-free policy to determine what further steps might be taken to address the smoking of tobacco and cannabis on our campuses."

An email from a Centennial College spokesperson says it is "developing a comprehensive Use of Cannabis Policy, in line with government legislation and existing college policies/procedures."

Toronto Public Health (TPH) supports the move to smoke-free campuses.

Spokesperson Suzanne Thibault says in an email that TPH has supported post-secondary institutions in developing smoke-free policies for the past several years, including initiatives like Leave the Pack Behind — a free tobacco control program that offers young adults information on quitting smoking, support and resources.

"Among 20-to-29-year-old current or former smokers, smoking initiation is most common between 16 and 19 years old," Thibault said.

Pot versus alcohol on campus

But just because something is suddenly prohibited doesn't mean students won't partake, cautions Kira London-Nadeau, who sits on the national board of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

"What we can do is make sure people are engaging in the activity, whether it be smoking cannabis or tobacco, in the safest way possible and also the most respectful way possible for others," she said.

Pot policies at various post-secondary institutions are in under review. (Associated Press)

London-Nadeau says the best way to do that is to offer designated spaces to smoke on campus — similar to campus bars.

"If you have a bar on campus then there really is very little reason for you not to have a cannabis lounge," she said.

"You need to put harm reduction principles in place that don't leave anybody behind, even users."

Safety of leaving campus to smoke

As post-secondary institutions consider their smoke-free options, U of T pharmacy student Shaan Singh is also thinking about the safety of asking students to leave campus to smoke, especially at night.

"Are students going to be left in the dark having to go smoke off campus?" he asks.

In that respect, George Brown's Anne Sado says being in the heart of the city is helpful.

"We felt there was enough public space around us that people could go to if they really needed to smoke," she said.

And as George Brown student Khaja Misbahuddin points out, "if a smoker wants to smoke, they'll smoke in minus 30 weather."


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