The head of Memorial University’s discipline of oncology is calling on the university’s new president to ban smoking on university campuses.
In a letter to president Gary Kachanoski dated Sept. 1, Dr. David Saltman suggests Memorial follow examples set by the province’s health authorities and the College of the North Atlantic (CNA) who have banned smoking on all its properties.
As well, Saltman said, more than 400 universities and colleges in North America, including four in Atlantic Canada have also gone smoke-free.
“Memorial University’s current policy of asking students and staff to run the gauntlet of smokers while entering and exiting some building entrances ignores the large body of research that demonstrates the many health hazards of second-hand smoke,” Saltman said in an editorial published recently in Memorial’s student newspaper The Muse.
By not imposing a smoking ban, he said, Memorial is exposing thousands of students and staff to the harmful effects of a known carcinogen and increasing their risk of disability and premature death.
“I don’t think people really realize that there’s a lot of evidence about how dangerous second-hand smoke is and that there’s really no safe level,” Saltman said in a telephone interview Thursday.
Saltman said research recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal has shown that policies taken to reduce second-hand smoke exposure in public places in the Toronto area may be responsible for the decreased number of people coming to hospital with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
A study recently published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health conducted by Peter Wang of Memorial’s faculty of medicine finds there’s a higher risk of colorectal cancer among former and current smokers than non-smokers.
Wang’s research states this province has the highest incidence of colorectal cancer in Canada and globally, it is the third leading cause of death from cancer in males and the fourth leading cause of death from cancer in females.
“I don’t think people really realize that there’s a lot of evidence about how dangerous second-hand smoke is and that there’s really no safe level.” - Dr. David Saltman
During the interview, Saltman referred to signage outside the doors of the University Centre. One sign says ‘No Smoking.’ A sign less than 10 feet away indicates the area is a designated smoking area.
“That’s completely illogical. Not only is second-hand smoke very high in that entrance, but each time you open the door it goes into the main building.”
Saltman is pleased that Kachanoski has acknowledged his letter and is in favour of reducing second-hand smoke exposure at Memorial.
Former acting president Eddy Campbell was also interested in such an initiative, Saltman said.
Kachanoski suggested the physician begin discussions with Sheila Miller, director of the university’s department of health and safety.
The meeting has been set for Oct. 28, Saltman said.
Saltman is hoping a smoking ban will be in place by September 2011.
Jessica McCormick, a Memorial University student and director of external affairs with MUN Students’ Union (MUNSU) said the union has been following the issue closely and has recently distributed a survey to students about several topics including smoking on campus.
Once feedback is received, McCormick said, the union will be in a position to take a stand on the issue.
“It will be based on what the majority of students on campus believe,” she said.
Kevin Coady, executive director of the Alliance for the Control of Tobacco said his group has been working with Memorial University for a number of years, without success, on a smoking ban.
He’s delighted Saltman has taken up the cause, as well.
“We are supportive with any move that reduces outdoor smoking on campus or at least gets it away from the door ... or, if possible, a complete smoke-free campus,” Coady said.