The University of Maryland is in the process of banning smoking in public areas on its 1,500-acre College Park campus, with the Campus Senate approving such a measure overwhelmingly this week and Chancellor John Slaughter on record in support of a ban.
The 160-member Senate representing faculty, students and administrative staff voted Monday to recommend to Slaughter a policy prohibiting smoking in classrooms, laboratories, libraries, hallways and other public areas. Only a third of some dining halls and lounges would be set aside for smokers, and then only if the smoke could be kept away from nonsmokers through proper ventilation.
Many universities, including those in the Washington area, restrict smoking in classrooms, but only a few in the nation have imposed bans of the scope recommended for the 230 buildings on the College Park campus.
The policy, which has inspired controversy on campus since it was proposed several years ago, would have to be adopted by Slaughter, who is out of town and could not be reached for comment. But the chancellor, a veteran pipe and cigar smoker, has indicated he would go along with restrictions.
"He is generally in support of the idea of a smoking policy which would limit the places in which one could smoke," said Joseph (Tim) Gilmour, executive assistant to Slaughter. "Expect a policy of some sort."
The university policy comes as businesses, municipalities and other institutions across the country are adopting smoking restrictions. Yesterday, U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop told a Senate subcommittee that he supported legislation that would restrict smoking in federal buildings nationwide.
Koop cited evidence of a health threat to nonsmokers who are exposed to tobacco smoke. In 1982, he issued a report warning that "for the purpose of preventive medicine, prudence dictates that nonsmokers avoid exposure to secondhand smoke to the extent possible."
The tobacco industry opposes Senate legislation that would restrict smoking in federal buildings. But a spokeswoman for the Tobacco Institute, a trade association, said yesterday the organization does not take exception to bans such as those in the works at the University of Maryland.
"We don't think that children should smoke anyway," said Anne Browder. "If it's not by government fiat, we have no problem with it."
Yet the proposed university policy has brought out the ire in some smokers. "This whole thing has just been a bit of nonsense," said Ira Block, a professor of textile science and a pack-a-day smoker. "There's no evidence that it harms anybody else."
John Banzhaf, director of the antismoking Action on Smoking and Health, said that nationally, colleges are lagging behind businesses, at least a third of which have restricted smoking. But bans "are a coming thing on campuses . . . . There are very good reasons for doing it," he said, citing the health data and savings from such items as cleaning bills.
The university now permits smoking except in classrooms and certain sections of the libraries. Under the policy recommended by the Campus Senate, smoking would still be permitted in dormitory rooms and faculty offices, unless others occupying the same office object.
The recommendation does not specify a penalty, nor does it spell out enforcement procedures, Gilmour said.
Student reaction is mixed. The student newspaper, the Diamondback, has editorialized in favor of a ban.
Staff writer Glenn Dickinson, a cigar smoker, said he does not oppose a ban. "When I light up a cigar, everybody calls me names . . . . I'm still sensitive to the fact that some people don't like them."
But Kim Rice, president of the Student Government Association and a smoker, said she opposes a ban. "To tell someone they can't smoke inside is ridiculous."