March 31, 2003

No smoking at building entrances

By Michael Terrazas

Acting on recommendations from a University Senate task force, and in accordance with a recent DeKalb County ordinance, the President’s Cabinet voted March 10 to ban smoking from all building entrances on campus.

Effective immediately, smoking is prohibited within 20 feet of all building entrances (including those to Emory Hospital, the Emory Clinic and residence halls) on both the Atlanta and Oxford campuses, and to Emory-owned buildings at Grady Hospital. Gary Hauk, vice president and University secretary, said the campus planning and roads and grounds departments of Facilities Management will determine the best locations for unobtrusive smoking areas, equipped with benches and cigarette urns, at least 25 feet from building entrances.

The move concludes a process that began in fall 2001, when the Employee Council proposed designating at least one smoke-free entrance to every University building. Acting on a recommendation from the Senate, President Bill Chace appointed a task force, chaired by Bob McMains from Facilities Management, to investigate the matter further, and that task force issued its report to the president on Feb. 12.

“The [task force] decided that what we were really charged with was to establish solutions to alleviate nonsmokers from having to enter a building by going through a cloud of secondhand smoke,” the report stated. “Visitors and occasional smokers walking around campus cannot be controlled. However, the habitual-smoking employee in a building who goes outside to smoke may actually be creating a cloud by an entrance.”

On Feb. 17, the DeKalb County Clean Indoor Air Ordinance took effect, banning smoking from all indoor public places (excluding bars, tobacco stores, adult establishments, etc.), including within 20 feet of entrances to such places. Recognizing “the need to breathe smoke-free air shall have priority over the desire to smoke,” the ordinance encourages DeKalb employers to “adopt, implement and make known and maintain a written smoking policy that incorporates the smoking prohibitions of this article.”

Other than existing no-smoking signs already posted by certain building entrances, no additional signage will be added, Hauk said, saying such notices would be a “blight on the aesthetics” of the campus. The DeKalb ordinance authorizes law enforcement (including Emory Police Department) to issue citations to violaters; citizens also are encouraged to remind violators of the policy and to request they desist from smoking, Hauk said.

Health concerns were not the only justification behind the task force’s recommendations. “Since we have had 20 false [fire] alarms in the past six months caused by smokers, we felt that a stronger policy with regard to smoking is justified,” McMains said in a letter to Hauk. “The false alarms not only produce ill will with the county and cost the county money, but our students/ faculty/staff become less sensitized to hearing alarms and tend to ignore them.”