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Smoking on Campus; a Crucial Moment to Take Measures
  • Kim Ji-yeon, Lee So-young
  • 승인 2013.05.06 21:29
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On a bright summer day in May, two non-smoking students decide to have lunch together outside. They order their food and sit on the bench while they wait. As they wait for their food to arrive and chit chat they notice the smell of thick smoke being carried by the wind. At this moment they turn to see where the smoke is coming from and notice that they are now surrounded by smoking students who, despite the sign that reads “no smoking” right beside them, are smoking heavily. They feel uncomfortable and decide to leave their spot to have lunch indoors.

After class, a heavy smoker goes outside of their building to have a smoke. There, another student who has recently sought to quit smoking has been planning their group meeting outside near a cafe. Outside of the building, the smoking student is unable to find a designated smoking area which then forces him to smoke near a garbage bin so he can easily throw out his cigarette when finished. With all of these smokers around him, the non-smoking student is unable to stop thinking about having a smoke as well. The smoker now realizes that some other students right behind him are storming out of the place because of his smoke. Only then, does he bother to find a smoking zone, but it was already too late. The smoker has made everyone uncomfortable and now must check every day if there are any non-smokers nearby before he lights up. The student wishing to quit smoking is unable to because everyone near him smokes. Even though he goes to a non-smoking zone, it matters not because everywhere he goes, there are smokers puffing their cigarettes.

As the above simulated scenarios show, Dongguk University is currently facing a grave problem of dealing with both smokers and non-smokers’ coexistence. According to the survey conducted by the Post, out of 150 students, 132 students, an astounding 88%, said that they are distressed with the current smoking environment and feel the need for the system to be changed. A non-smoking student from the Department of Industrial Systems Engineering mentioned that the campus is so filled with smoke that he feels like a smoker himself. A smoking student, on the other hand, has the dire predicament of where to smoke. “There is no clear distinction between a smoking area and a non-smoking area that it is difficult for smokers to smoke comfortably. I need to keep my eyes around me so that I do not cause distress to nonsmokers,” added Song, a smoker from the Department of Mass Communications and Journalism.

 

   
 
  Students are smoking on campus, but there are no clear distinctive line that distinguish a smoking area from a non-smoking area.  
 

Korea has the highest rate of adult male smokers among OECD countries and campuses are of no exceptions. In Dongguk University alone, 44% of students are active smokers, according to the survey done among 262 students. These days, smoking is banned in most public areas such as bus stations and parks and universities are also starting to foll ow this trend. According to the Law for the Promotion of Nation’s Health, “public facilities” such as universities, are to be designated as total non-smoking zones or must have areas that are designed for smoking. However in reality, it is not difficult to find students smoking literally everywhere around the campus. Smokers can be found on the streets, near cafes and even right next to the entrances of buildings where a mixture of smokers and non-smokers come in and out. Non-smokers must suffer from second hand smoking while the smokers are arguing their rights to smoke. What steps has the school taken in order to solve this problem and what kind of reactions have these steps created? Are the current existing regulations enough?

On Dongguk’s campus, smoking zones are in almost every building. A total of 28 buildings have smoking zones outside of them, except for Jeonggakwon that holds a special Buddhism value, banning smoking around the building completely. Smoking zones, however, have flaws that have caused the conflicts between smoking and non-smoking students.

Firstly, smoking zones are placed near improper areas. The Law Hall’s smoking zones, for example, are at each side of its front door. Hence, when people try to access the building, they have to experience second-hand smoking and this causes smokers to become uncomfortable. Moreover, there are no clear distinctive lines that distinguish a smoking area from a non-smoking area. There is only a sign on the wall that says “smoking zone” and thus, smokers get confused where the exact smoking area is. It is not only smokers who feel uncomfortable about this, but non-smokers as well. Due to a lack of systems and standards, non-smokers have no rights to criticize smokers who smoke elsewhere than smoking zones. Second, some smoking zones are astonishingly small that they can only accommodate a handful of people, with the maximum being five. Since the zones are tiny, this leaves smokers with no other options than to look for other places to smoke.

Finally, there is no physical partition that can prevent the smoke from spreading. In fact, there is one smoking booth near Wonheung Hall, but most students seem to not know about it, leaving its efficiency awfully low. Apart from this booth, every smoking area has no divider or screen that prevents smoke from spreading in the air. On top of these problems, Dongguk’s system is also lagging behind. Not only does Dongguk lack in clearly defining the smoking areas, but also in providing better programs and systems to improve the smoking culture and assist students trying to quit smoking. Last year’s Green Campus Project began with the intention of making the campus environment friendly and clean and it is currently underway. An insider from the project team said that they will administer trash bins, posters, smoking zones, and parking spaces. Nevertheless, the project team focuses mainly on trash and posters and has no real plans to deal with the smoking zones. The university’s Health Service Center came up with a program to help students quit smoking in 2012, but for this year, there are no plans. A person in charge at the Health Service Center explained as to why they have no such plans, “We have borrowed medical machines that help students to quit smoking but they cost 1.7 million won per month. If many students participated, the money spent would have been worthwhile, but the participation was low. Therefore, we decided to stop the program.”

Dongguk’s student council, Golden Time is not taking any actions as well. The student body has not done any campaigns or made requests to the school for years. Nam Bo-ra, the President of Golden Time, implied that they do not have any plans or thoughts on solving the smoking issues for this year at all. There was a subtle movement to make improvements in 2011 by the student council of the College of Social Science but it waned. “A number of students from the College of Social Science complained about the prevailing smoking situation in Nache Ground and so the council formally demanded that the school change its regulations on smoking areas. The school, however, showed no response, so there were no more efforts paid by the council after that,” recalled Choi Eun-mi, current President of the College of Social Science, on the question of how previous student councils took action.

Kicking Tobacco off Campus; How Other Campuses See Less Puffs of Smoke

Whilst Dongguk’s effort to reduce the public complaint on the issue of smoking is comparatively low, other universities are attempting multiple approaches to eradicate them. Universities such as Choong-Ang University, Korea University, Gachon University, and Hongik University are creating regulations and campaigning in order to transform their campuses into places where both smokers and non-smokers can pleasantly co-exist. Their approaches include creating appropriate smoking zones, campaigns and various efforts by their student councils.

In Choong-Ang University, there are eleven smoking zones around the campus which have been carefully selected after considering distance and student accessibility. The smoking zone near the Central Library, for instance, is comparatively deserted compared to other areas around the building, but can easily be accessed by students. This way, non-smokers need not inhale unnecessary smoke in the air and smokers are free from worries of passing off their secondhand smoke to non-smokers. In addition, there are lines drawn around the smoking zones for smokers to be always aware of where and where not to smoke.

Choong-Ang’s students are fairly content with the university’s current means of dealing with the smoking situation. One of their non-smoking students, Choi Min-kyu, commented, “I feel like the lines around the smoking zones are extremely effective because smokers who smoke outside of the lines will feel guilty. Non-smokers need to avoid only those areas and can be free from breathing in the smoke.” Positive feedback has also been received from smokers. Lee Jun-sung, a senior student who has been smoking since his freshman year, mentioned that the lines around the smoking zones guarantee smokers the right to smoke and that he does not have to be concerned about how the smoke will affect the non-smokers that pass by.

 

   
 
  ▲ According to Korea University's Office of Planning and Facility Management, the students show a positive response towards its high-tech system.  
 

Korea University has adopted an advanced solution on their campus by building high-tech smoking booths near the Central Square and Science Library. It is the first university in Korea to set up smoking booths on campus that can accommodate up to 12 people with air purifier, smoke collector, and air conditioner equipped inside. One booth costs around 20 million won, which is a large sum of money to invest in, but the entire money spent was worthwhile. Most Korea University students are satisfied with the high-tech smoking booths and non-smokers also feel that they are not squandering money on them. “The smoking booth, despite its high cost, is definitely effective in making the campus completely smoke-free. I believe two booths are less than enough and I hope the school is considering to expand this number,” Kim Jin-sung, a student from the Department of Public Administration, shared his opinion.

Korea University’s Office of Planning and Facility Management is planning on increasing the number of smoking booths next year and at the same time, is campaigning to improve smoking awareness together with the student council. Hwang Soon-young, the campaign commissioner of the student council, mentioned that they are putting up posters around the buildings on campus for smokers to be more aware of how their smoke can affect non-smokers.

Gachon University’s student council is one of the most active student bodies that respond to student’s complaints on smoking problems. The president of Gachon’s student council Baek Chang-bae said through an interview that merely two years ago, smokers had no restrictions and smoked guiltlessly on the streets and while walking as well. However, ever since the campaign on smoking awareness improvement was initiated, the situation has gotten much better. The university picked anti-smoking supporters that promote smokers to quit smoking and give warnings to the smokers that smoke outside of their smoking zones. The supporters also hold a festival every semester where they are able to perform on stage in order to make a positive image on the nonsmoking trend.

The campaign is not carried out by the student council solely. Gachon University’s faculty members are also active participants in the campaign and persuade student smokers to quit smoking. The faculty and supporters make teams and patrol around the campus to catch smokers who do not follow regulations and to convince them of quitting. Jo Min-ju, a non smoking student, said, “I was surprised at how much effort both the student council and the university are putting in. A lot of students have become interested in the lectures and campaigns provided during the festival and they were notably helpful in decreasing the number of smokers and amount of smoke around the campus.”

Besides the campaigns, Gachon’s Health Center is giving out medical patches that pragmatically help smokers with addiction. Smokers attach the patches on their bodies which absorb the nicotine through their skin and lessen the thought of smoking. This helps students cut down on smoking more efficiently without struggles. Hongik University provides medical help and education for student smokers as well. Health education is provided several times a semester in collaboration with the local clinic center. Expert counselors from Mapo-gu’s clinics visit the university once a week for students who wish to receive help on quitting smoking. Han Young-mi, a Liberal Arts professor and Family Medicine Doctor in Hongik University reported that smoking rate is decreasing every year, thanks to the effort paid by the university and the Anti-smoking Club that promote a healthy smoking culture on campus. She also mentioned that the rate is expected to fall more as more students learn about the harmfulness of smoking.

Many universities’ decisions to reform their smoking culture on campus have also been assisted by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. An anti-smoking supporters group called “Gillajabi”, meaning “guide”, is composed of approximately 800 university students from more than 100 different universities. The students are selected every year by the Ministry of Health and Welfare to encourage university students to quit smoking. Their activities include banning on-campus cigarette sales, promoting anti-smoking policies and befriending smokers both online and offline.

Gi In-hwa, who holds a doctorate and works for the Ministry of Health and Welfare, believes that since 2007, when Gillajabi was established, a lot of changes have been brought about on Korea’s university campuses. More than a million students have administered an oath to give up smoking and every year, the number is expected to increase. “We are recruiting more students this year and the activities that they are going to pursue are mainly related to anti-smoking promotions,” said Gi on the question of their plans for 2013.

The prevalence of smoking is a matter that must be dealt with in all earnest. Half of Dongguk University’s students are smokers and the other half are suffering from the smoke that the smokers puff. The university must figure out ways that can bring peace among non-smokers and smokers and it would be even better if they can curb tobacco usage among students. Such measures would protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke and reduce the smoking rate. In addition, students themselves will need to increase their effort and adapt to new policies when they are created.

Kim Ji-yeon, Lee So-young  tj703@dongguk.edu, soybeans@dongguk.edu

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