Are Smokers’ Poles Helping Move Towards Smoke-Free Campuses?


Outside American University’s library sits three benches and one plastic receptacle where people can dispose of cigarette buds labeled Smokers’ Pole.

Although it is evident the university does not ban smoking, it claims to be trying to move towards a smoke-free campus in the future.

American’s smoking policy states: “The American University community shares a commitment to the promotion of a healthful and safe living environment on campus.  The university recognizes the increasing weight of scientific evidence that smoking presents a danger not only to the smoker, but also to nearby non-smokers who are exposed to smoke.” 

It furthermore states, “it is the policy of the university to achieve an environment as close to smoke-free as practically possible.” 

But how close is American to a smoke-free campus with a constant reminder that is okay to smoke right outside a building that sees as much traffic as a campus library?

Kristine Untalan, a senior broadcast journalism major at American University doesn’t believe it is sending mixed messages but is just an effort to make smoking less of a problem on campus for the time being.

(photo credit: Kiera A. Manison)

 “I think AU understands that it’ll probably be a slow but eventual progression into an entirely smoke-free campus,” Untalan says. “But the university hopes that people will still have respect for following the rules they currently have in place like standing a certain amount of feet away from a building while smoking.”

 The American College Health Association (ACHA) has adopted a No Tobacco Use policy and encourages colleges and universities to be diligent in their efforts to achieve a 100 percent indoor and outdoor campus-wide, tobacco-free environment.

Towson University implemented a strict anti-smoking ban that effect in 2011. With its policy in place, smokers are looking at a $75 fine unless they step completely off university property to indulge in a cigarette, not just a certain amount of feet.  

Most other colleges and universities in the Washington area have come up with policies to accommodate non-smoking and smoking students, faculty, and staff. Some campuses find it necessary to use smoking receptacles in attempt to keep campus clean of used cigarettes buds, but it doesn’t necessarily tackle the issue of becoming a smoke-free campus.

 “I think it’s necessary for us to have a smoker’s pole because they still serve as a friendly reminder to not litter the ground with cigarette buds,” Untalan says. AU still allows students the freedom to smoke on campus, as long as they don’t try and take advantage of the campus in being inconsiderate for their habit.”

While colleges and universities in the Washington area become closer to smoke-free campuses, it looks like the receptacles are the way to keep the situation under control for right now.