Students sit in on a Feb. 23 Student Government meeting discussing George Mason University’s smoking policy. Photo By Jake McLernon

Sophomore nursing and psychology major Sabena Richter, who attended a Student Government sponsored open forum Feb. 23 about smoking on campus, does not appreciate inhaling second-hand smoke as she walks by buildings on campus.

“I’m an asthmatic and secondhand smoke affects my health,” Richter said.

She is not the only one who has an opinion on the topic. Around 70 students attended the forum, which provided a venue for students to voice concerns about Mason’s smoking policy. Student Government senators Matthew Short, Alex Williams and Michael Shaffer led the forum.

According to Virginia state law, one cannot smoke within 25 feet of a public building.

“It’s definitely not enforced,” said Molly O’Rourke, a nonprofit administration major. “Perhaps it can be enforced through the [resident advisors].”
Wesley Boynton, a music education major, also believes that RAs could help resolve the problem.

“Enforcing the 25-foot rule would be much easier if RAs cared,” Boynton said. “They generally tend to let it go.”

Krista Germanis, a sophomore communication major, offered another suggestion.

“Perhaps there could be a painted line 25 feet from each building, saying ‘no smoking past this point,’” said Germanis.

On the other hand, not all students believe that enforcing the 25-foot rule is necessary.

“I don’t think it is a big enough issue to enforce,” said Chris Passarello, a junior information technology major.

Disagreement exists between smokers and nonsmokers on campus, the right to smoke is often at odds with others right to protect their health by breathing clean air.
Protecting the rights of both smokers and non-smokers is difficult, Schaffer said.

“It is important to raise awareness and respect one another,” said William. “Smokers can smoke without impeding on one’s rights to breathe clean air.”
“Being able to hold this forum is a privilege,” said Short. “This is our chance to influence what the policy will be.”

Some students believe that designated smoking areas can help alleviate the problem, while remaining respectful to both perspectives.

“At Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, there are designated gazebos for smoking,” said Annmarie DeLury, a sophomore majoring in criminology. “The gazebos are covered so smokers don’t have to worry about rain or inclement weather.”

“These gazebos could be out of the way for non-smokers, but accessible to smokers at the same time,” DeLury said.

Approximately 20 students posed questions during the forum. Because of the forum’s successful turnout, Student Government will host another smoking policy forum after spring break in a larger location on campus.