Smoke-free Hopkins plan has some fuming

May 03, 1991|By Diane Winston

Is Brant Johnson mad because in a mere two months he'll be banned from smoking on campus?

Not really, said the Johns Hopkins University sophomore who has grown accustomed to campus prohibitions.

"I just got kicked out of the library because I had a drink," said Mr. Johnson, sitting under a shady tree with a soft drink, a cigarette and a sports newspaper. "It really doesn't bother me. I go outside to smoke when I am at home so I can go outside here, too."

Mr. Johnson's equanimity is not shared by all members of the Hopkins community where the new policy will affect 12,600 students, faculty and employees. The policy, which begins July 1, bans cigarette, cigar and pipe smoking in all classrooms, hallways, laboratories, offices and restrooms, and includes university-owned apartment buildings, residence halls, dining areas, vans and golf carts.

Tobacco products will no longer be sold on campus and outside groups using university facilities for conferences, seminars, concerts, parties and sporting events will be asked to adhere to the new policy.

Smokers can still indulge outdoors -- which isn't satisfying to some. Faculty at the Applied Physics Laboratory in Howard County circulated a petition complaining that the policy abrogates individual freedom.

"The major issue to me is not smoking or non-smoking," said Samuel Koslov, assistant to the director of the laboratory. "It's that people's rights are being trampled."

Dr. Koslov, noting many of the 500 petition-signers were non-smokers, said the laboratory already follows Howard County guidelines which permit smoking in private offices and designated areas.

"We requested full consideration of staff viewpoints on this issue," said Dr. Koslov, describing the petition. "But we haven't heard back."

He asked, "What are they going to do with the tenured faculty? Will they go after them in their own offices?"

The ban on puffing away in private has provoked ire on the Homewood campus, too.

"I am not happy with this," said Richard Joseph, a professor of electrical and computer engineering. "It will mean a big change for me."

To help people make that change, Hopkins is offering free classes forthose who want to stop smoking. Officials say they are sympathetic to nicotine addicts, but contend the new policy -- which has also been adopted on a handful of other university campuses, including Harvard, MIT and Berkeley -- will benefit the whole community.

"This is an idea whose time has come," said Stanley C. Gabor, a former smoker who is dean of the School of Continuing Education and chairman of the Smoke-Free Advisory Committee, which drafted the policy. "We are making a statement that smoking is injurious to health and the university -- as a leading medical and public health institution in this country -- has a teaching role to play." Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Schools of Medicine, Hygiene and Public Health, Continuing Studies and Nursing banned smoking in classrooms and offices in 1988.

"The most charitable thing you can say is that it's ridiculous," said Walker Merryman, vice president of the Tobacco Institute, a Washington D.C. trade association. "This policy is punitive, mean-spirited and petty."

Students say it's unrealistic.

"This is a very stressful environment. A lot of people smoke when they study," said Danya Niedzwiedzki, a Hopkins graduate who is taking pre-med courses. "When you spend hours and hours studying are you just supposed to get up and go outside? There ought to be a place to smoke."

"I do like a smoke-free environment," said Jennifer Bauman, a graduate student in the history of art. "But I do feel concern for the smokers. I wonder what they are going to do with themselves."

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