With the legalization of marijuana coming into effect in October, many post-secondary institutions across the country are considering their smoke-free options and adopting new policies.
Although most campuses already have tobacco-related policies in place, increasingly more are crafting new rules that cover smoking cannabis.
One of these is George Brown College in downtown Toronto, which on Aug. 20 implemented a 100 percent smoke-free policy that covers tobacco and cannabis products, including electronic cigarettes and vaporizers.
Vice president of corporate services Karen Thomson says that although the school initially had a partial smoke-free policy where there were one or two areas around the campus that allowed smoking, a big driver for developing a completely smoke-free campus was to promote healthy lifestyles.
Thomson said the students were the ones pushing for a smoke-free environment at George Brown and there has been support from both students and staff members.
“Overall it’s been extremely positive, people were thanking us,” she said.
While smoking marijuana is banned from campus under the smoke-free policy, the school will be approaching the behavioural effects of cannabis use in a manner similar to alcohol and other substances, Thomson explained.
“We are going to create a guidelines document, not a policy so much, but a bit of a guideline framework of all substances. The reason we haven’t issued that yet is because the provincial government is being a little bit vague at the moment as to how they expect to deploy the new legislation,” she said.
“So we obviously have to follow whatever framework the province comes forward with. Again, our guidelines will be really consistent with any guidelines we would offer for alcohol consumption and behaviour, and other similar types of substances, and that’s the way we’re treating the legalization of cannabis.”
On developing these policies, guidelines, and consultations, Thomson said, “I think our culture’s just ready for this now. I think it’s just a natural progression on the whole healthy lifestyle desire, and I just think we’re all ready for it now. It looks to me like people are really embracing it.”
McMaster University in Hamilton put in place a similar policy in January of this year. It includes smoking cannabis products through vaping pens and the smoking of medical marijuana.
According to McMaster’s website, the school offers support to those who use smoking as a coping mechanism by including cessation resources and support for healthier coping strategies as part of the policy.
Halifax’ Dalhousie University was the first school in Canada to adopt a completely smoke free policy, a decision supported by students, faculty, and staff, according to the University’s website.
A 2003 survey of Dalhousie community members showed over 82 percent support towards the policy, leading to it’s adoption in September of that year. However, there hasn’t been a statement on Dalhousie’s approach on the pending marijuana legislation federally and provincially.
Western University in London is taking a step-by-step approach to eventually ban smoking completely on campus by July 2019. The University started by implementing a policy this July to reduce designated smoking areas to six around the main campus, leaving them in place for one year.
Marijuana use is outright banned in student residences at Western.
In the West, the University of Calgary, Simon Fraser University, and University of British Columbia all having largely smoke-free policies, with the latter two having designated smoking areas.