ASG Senate begins school year with introduction of campus tobacco ban


Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Carolyn Huang, president of the Northwestern Public Health Club, explains the resolution she authored on making NU a tobacco-free campus to Associated Student Government senators. A Senate vote on the bill is scheduled for next week.

Ally Mutnick, Development Editor

At its first Senate meeting of the quarter Wednesday, Associated Student Government swore in new senators, reopened the selection process for its top diversity officer and introduced a resolution which would lend support to the movement to make Northwestern a tobacco-free campus.

Weinberg senior Carolyn Huang, president of the  Public Health Club, authored the resolution, arguing that a campus free of tobacco products would save money on fire insurance, as well as custodial and University health care costs. The Faculty Senate has already passed a similar bill.

During her presentation, Huang pointed to a national trend, citing statistics from the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation on the nearly 800 universities that have banned all tobacco products and the nearly 1,200 that have prohibited smoking cigarettes.

“As a leading institution, Northwestern should be, in my opinion, tobacco-free,” she told The Daily. “It’s important for students to understand how policy can impact their health down the road.”

 The Evanston Clean Air Act, the current policy which applies to NU’s campus, prohibits smoking in public areas, restaurants, parks, on public transit and other communal spaces. Smokers also cannot light up within 25 feet of the entrance of an enclosed area or a ventilation unit.

Senators asked questions regarding the ban’s enforcement and impact and if it is necessary to make campus tobacco-free instead of only banning smoking. As written, the resolution will ban all tobacco products and electronic cigarettes.

Though e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, they can act as a gateway to smoking, Huang said.

If Senate passes the resolution, ASG would recommend it, along with the Faculty Senate bill, to Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs, or other upper-level administrators, said Alex Van Atta, ASG executive vice president.

The University would make a final decision on a possible ban and its enforcement.

Weinberg senior Mark Silberg, senator for Students for Ecological and Environmental Development, expressed concern that the ban gives police more cause to search students and could lead to privacy issues. He also acknowledged students who are of age may be upset at giving up their right to smoke.

“What we’re going to see next week is a balance between personal choice and public health come to odds in a very nuanced way,” he said.

Silberg said he thinks the issue might call for something more than a resolution, which only demonstrates a show of support to the University. Usually ASG is more active in the implementation of a new policy this relevant to students, he said.

Senators can amend the resolution to show support for only a smoking ban at the next meeting Oct. 16. If Senate decides to call for legislation that suggests ASG action instead of just support, a new bill would need to be introduced.

Van Atta said he does not yet have a stance on the resolution, but he said it offers a good chance for senators to reach out to their constituents and gauge student opinion.

“It’s a powerful statement to say the student body is behind it, and the faculty is behind it,” the McCormick senior said. “It can make a very convincing argument.”

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