Smoke-Free Referendum Passes

The Georgetown University Student Association announced 49.64 percent of students voted “yes” in a referendum for a tobacco-free campus in results released Friday at 1:31 a.m.

According to the GUSA Election Commission, 46.37 percent of students voted against the referendum.

Thirty-four percent of students living off campus participated, 51 percent living in freshman south,  48 percent in freshman north, 45 percent in west campus, 39 percent in east campus, 45 percent in central campus, 46 percent in north campus, 21 percent abroad and 43 percent in south campus.

The referendum was nonbinding and will determine GUSA’s advocacy stance on the university’s plan to create a tobacco-free campus by the 2017-18 academic year.

The referendum began as a petition led by Mac Williams (NHS ’17) and GUSA Senator Henry Callander (COL ’18) on Oct. 4.

The Georgetown University Medical School campus implemented a full smoking ban in 2014. The Smoke Free Georgetown campaign aims to ban all tobacco products on campus.

Currently, smoking is prohibited in any indoor spaces, as per university regulations, and allowed only in designated outdoor areas, which must be 25 feet away from building entrances to reduce the risk of secondhand smoke.

The referendum results were intended to determine how GUSA would advocate to the university on how to become a smoke-free campus.

GUSA Senate Speaker Richie Mullaney (COL ’18) said GUSA will take the narrow margin of the vote into account.

“GUSA’s going to take a nuanced stance and a nuanced perspective on this and make sure that any changes the university makes are not done without student input. Obviously smoking is an issue on campus that needs to be addressed, but it needs to be addressed delicately,” Mullaney said.

GUSA President Enushe Khan (MSB ’18) said the result shows the role GUSA must play when discussing policy changes with the university administration.

“We need to work with the university to ensure that any necessary measures they are not currently taking into account leading up to a smoke-free campus are put in place,” Khan said.

The Smoke Free Georgetown campaign argued that a smoke-free campus would clear the air of secondhand smoke for everyone on campus, including non-smokers.

Opponents argued that the ban would infringe students’ civil liberties and would be practically unenforceable. Some students argued that smokers, particularly international and exchange students, could be marginalized and isolated by a sweeping tobacco ban.

“Vote NO to the Smoking Ban” Campaign Leader Saad Bashir (SFS ’19), who is also a former GUSA senator, said the campaign aimed to find a compromise.

“The purpose of the ‘No’ campaign isn’t to keep the status quo but engage in a conversation that can find some effective middle ground, a policy that solves the problem without attacking smokers,” Bashir said.

Hoya Staff Writers Christian Paz and Jeffery Cirillo contributed reporting. 

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