ASG plans referendum to gauge campus opinion on smoking


Daily file photo by Allie Goulding

Senators Bassel Shanab and Emerson Carlson speak at an ASG meeting. Shanab introduced the campus-wide smoking referendum.

Allie Goulding, Assistant Campus Editor

Associated Student Government announced in an email Thursday that there will be a campus referendum on smoking tobacco cigarettes next week. The referendum will ask students if they would prefer more regulations and limitations on smoking in public areas, according to the email.

Weinberg freshman Bassel Shanab introduced the legislation for the referendum during a Senate meeting Feb. 21, though it was withdrawn the same day to add more specific details to the document.

Shanab, an ASG senator, gathered approximately 200 signatures in support of the referendum, he said.

“Multiple cigarette smokers have given their signatures just because they say, ‘I want to know how other students feel about this,’” Shanab said. “The decision they’re making is a decision every other student surrounding them within a certain radius (makes too). We’re all breathing in the toxins that go along with cigarette smoke.”

Shanab said the referendum just aims to gauge opinions on the topic. However, he said he wants to make sure that students are “aware cigarette smoking has been deemed toxic to human health.”

Shanab said part of the reason he introduced the referendum was because Illinois passed the “Smoke-Free Campus Act” in 2014, banning smoking on all public college campuses. He added that Northwestern should follow its “sister campuses” in the legislation.

University President Morton Schapiro, however, told The Daily on Thursday that it’s a more complicated issue than it may seem.

“When it came up about five years ago … I was like, ‘Sure, yeah, we should ban it. I can’t stand the smoke,’” Schapiro said. “But then I started thinking more about it, and I’m just not sure that we have a moral right to tell people that.”

The Evanston Clean Air Act, the current policy which applies to NU’s campus, prohibits smoking in public buildings, 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.

ASG has tried to pass legislation in the past to make NU a tobacco-free campus in 2013, but it was rejected. They also attempted to pass similar legislation in 2015 after Illinois banned smoking on state universities’ campuses, but it was rejected as well.

However, Shanab stressed that the referendum is only to see how students feel about smoking on campus and is not legislation to take any further action on a tobacco ban.

“All I wanted to do was reevaluate the current smoking policy because that’s been in place (for years) and it seems like it’s a sacred cow for Northwestern,” Shanab said. “I feel like at least we should ask students how they feel about it. … Senators don’t necessarily represent the student body at every single waking moment.”

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