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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Smoke and Haze: Reflecting on campus smoking culture

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Most students know where the smokers on campus go to light up a cigarette. Between Musser and Davis. In front of Sayles. Behind Laird.

For those who do not smoke, these easily identified locations are simple to avoid when secondhand smoke or smell is a concern.

For those who partake in smoking, these areas are opportunities to strike up conversation with other smokers. With most of these spots tucked out of the way, their impact on fellow students seems minimal.

Yet, from casual conversations with a few of my peers, the animosity towards those who smoke at Carleton became apparent.

“Don’t they know smoking is bad for them?” said one of my friends. “Why should we help them ruin their bodies?” said another.

Talking to some of the cigarette smokers, this attitude expressed by my friends corresponded with their own experiences with fellow students on campus.

“Students sometimes tell me ‘Hey don’t smoke’ or ‘stop smoking’ or they’ll cough when walking by you,” said Nina Zand ’19. Bobby Volpendesta ’17 agrees. “People will definitely give you looks if you smoke,” Volpendesta said.

These looks and phrases, for both Zand and Volpendesta, are unhelpful. Every smoker interviewed agreed that they are well aware of the potential consequences of smoking.

“I don’t think there is anyone who has made it to a small liberal arts college like Carleton who doesn’t know the dangers of smoking,” said Ed Hendrickson ’17.

In some ways, Zand argues, constantly reminding smokers of the health risks, even when it comes from a place of concern, goes against the accepting nature Carleton prides itself on.

“Carleton is not the sort of place that shames people for their choices. There’s such a big movement here not to slut shame or do things like that. You don’t tell other people how to use their bodies. You don’t shame someone for drinking or not drinking,” Zand said. She wonders why smoking should be any different.

There are many reasons students smoke on Carleton’s campus. For some, it’s a stress reliever from the rigorous academics and, at times, claustrophobic bubble of Carleton. For others, smoking stems from their life before coming to college.

“I think part of it is definitely a class thing. The majority of students here are white, upper middle class and so they’re more likely to not be around smokers at home,” said Volpendesta.

“Where I come from, everyone smokes. Absolutely everyone,” added Zand. Less than 20% of Carleton students smoke, so the school provides limited places for smokers to go and limited upkeep of the designated areas.

“I’ve noticed that they don’t empty the ashtrays that often. When I got back [from winter break], I noticed the ashtray was still full of cigarettes… I filed a facilities work request,” said Zand. “It’s so bad for the environment to not empty an ashtray.”

Similarly, Hendrickson noted that the littering from smoking around campus directly correlates to the need for more ashtrays.

“I would really like to see more ashtrays. Part of the shaming of cigarette smokers is that we litter and that we just throw the cigarette butts on the ground,” Hendrickson said.

More ashtrays would decrease the amount of littered cigarette butts because of easy access to a disposal unit. Additionally, more ashtrays would make it easier on smokers who need to walk and smoke as they move from building to building, an activity that can be annoying for non-smokers.

A non-smoking student, who requested to remain anonymous, echoed this call for more ashtrays at Carleton. Comparing this campus improvement to the movement for more compost, recycling, and trash cans around campus, he said that students need to have the disposal resources easily available to ensure limited amounts of litter.

The source, however, was tentative to sympathize with walking smokers. For him, encountering smokers in crowds or trying to navigate around them on sidewalks is the most annoying part of smoking on campus.

“People that smoke in-between classes, in the rush, I feel like those type of smokers annoy me a little bit more because there’s not much I can do to avoid it. I have to get to class but I’m stuck next to someone who is [smoking],” the source said.

Another point of contention between smokers and non-smokers centers on the rule that smokers must remain 50 feet away from a building when smoking. Volpendesta notes that back home “if you’re at a café or wherever, you can just go outside.” He added, “I think it’s kind of a dumb rule.”

Despite this animosity, Area Director Steve Romenesko said that, in general, the rule is enforced without much pushback.

“99% of people asked [to move] are very kind and respectful and move to a proper distance from a building,” Romenesko said.

Volpendesta agrees that smokers on campus are generally courteous and harmless to their peers.

“I don’t think anyone can reasonably say that people smoking at Carleton affects their experience at a significant level. I think if anyone is saying that… it’s kind of unfair. We don’t get into people’s faces,” Volpendesta said.

According to Hendrickson, disagreements between smokers and non-smokers lead to only small tiffs. All the smokers interviewed, however, were increasingly frustrated at the hypocrisy of many students on campus when it comes to smoking cigarettes – each noticed that some students who outwardly judged their smoking habits one day would be the same people asking them for a cigarette after a weekend rager.

“They’ll cough at you on a Monday and on Friday ask you for a cigarette,” said Zand. After conversations with these smokers, it became evident that there was significant tension around cigarette smoking on campus. However, when asked about trying to start a discussion about these issues and hypocrisies with other students, Volpendesta warned that “there’s no way to have that sort of discussion with somebody without them being patronizing to you.”

“At a place like this, I expect everyone to be smart,” Volpendesta said. “And with intelligence, I expect there to be acceptance of something like [smoking.] Especially, when it’s not even really a big problem.”

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