Story by Ryan Tipper
Students on Whatcom Community College’s campus will notice that the courtyard between Laidlaw Center, Heiner Center and Syre Student Center usually has a thick, musky smell of smoke and tobacco. This is because there are two designated smoking areas within the courtyard that are usually overflowing with smokers. This leads to groups of smokers popping up in areas not designated for smoking, and everyone is taking notice.
On May 16, Whatcom’s Student Council held an open forum in Whatcom’s courtyard discussing the issues that non-smokers and smokers have with Whatcom’s current policies with smoking on campus. A white board sat tall on a tri-pod with the text “Ground Rules: Your opinion is valuable, respect each person’s opinion, one person at a time.”
Students on both sides of the table voiced their opinions about how they felt with Whatcom’s current situation.
“It really bothers me when I’m out here sitting at a table and I get large amounts of smoke blown into my face.” One Whatcom student said.
Many other students shared this same opinion and feel that the smokers don’t respect the fact that some people have serious health concerns from breathing in second hand smoke or are bothered by its other effects.
“I want smoking banned on the main campus.” Another student said. “I had an actual asthma attack the other day after I walked past someone smoking out of the designated smoke area.”
While this event was an open forum, it was consistently turning into a debate. Smokers want it to stay the same way, while the non-smokers want it either gone or severally changed.
“If we have to walk all the way off campus to smoke, we are going to be rushing to get back to class on time and will probably be late.” One of the pro-smoking students said. “We are outside, its public space.”
The times where the Student Council was able to get the forum back on track, a plethora of ideas pooled into possible solutions.
“We could paint white lines that would better designate where smokers can stand and where they can’t.” One student suggested. “This would give a common ground of boundaries for both smokers and non-smokers.”
Many of the ideas, although well thought up, would turn into a cost-effective issue for the school. Funding always has its back against the wall and “building more smoke huts” or “moving them to new locations”, as some students suggested, requires money that the Whatcom would have to pull from somewhere else.
“There isn’t a realistic way around a lot of this.” One student said. “Wind direction, funding, those that choose to not follow the rules, and other factors will always cause the issue to persist.”
The one idea that seemed to grab the most attention was one student who suggested “forming a smoker committee.” This committee could brain storm different ideas that could be done to help solve the issues that persist with Whatcom’s on campus smoking.
The most supporters from this committee came from those present at the forum who are smokers themselves. After the discussion ended, the names and contact information of those interested in joining the committee were taken down by Whatcom’s Student Council.
“We have to respect both sides of the discussion.” One student said. “Something does have to be done, but it has to work for the smokers and the non-smokers.”