When Smokey sings, I see smoke rings.
The air outside of hospitals is thick with smoke and irony.
Because that's where the doctors, nurses, and orderlies congregate to catch up, talk about their hard day, and...have a smoke!
I can see the ad campaign now: "After a long, hard day of operating on people's diseased lungs, four out of five doctors prefer Camel cigarettes to unwind!"
Of course, we hold doctors to a higher health standard than others, because they're the ones who tell us to take care of ourselves and scold us when we don't.
So common is this cognitive dissonance - the dentist with rotten teeth, the drug counselor with a meth habit, the firefighter who doesn't notice his pants are on fire - we have an expression of moral indignation for it:
"Physician, heal thyself!"Where there's smoke...there's learning
So, let's say that I teach advertising and PR (which tells us that image is king) at a downtown, progressive college heralded for being at the forefront of technology and creativity, but to get inside you must pass through a wall of smoke at both, major entrances...
While it may not be as hypocritical as a doctor with a two-pack-a-day habit, it always strikes me as an odd juxtaposition: all of the architectural beauty and state-of-the-art technology that taxpayers' money can buy behind concrete barrels of sand and butts.
In yesterday's blog post (below), I railed against smoking near a rail - or whatever surrounds your favorite restaurant patio - mostly for reasons of health and the right to enjoy fresh air, but I think that smoking outside "an institute of higher learning" raises questions of health and image.
More to the point: can you be a "progressive" college and still allow smoking to take place at your two, main entry points?
Of course, if my thesis is right, and image is everything, the college doesn't have to ban smoking; it just needs to make sure that all of the smokers out front always use a pipe, cigarette holder, or humidor, for that classy Sherlock Holmes, Audrey Hepburn, Arnie vibe:
RRC's smoking policy
If you go to the Red River College website and search "smoking policy," you learn some startling facts:
- "College Administration has received numerous complaints regarding exposure to smoke upon entering and exiting the buildings as there are often many people smoking in front of the entrances/exits."
- "The assembly of people outside the exits/entrances increases the College’s operating costs given that litter is not being properly disposed of and heat is lost while doors are held open."
- "The present situation poses a serious safety concern, primarily as a fire hazard. The College has had two fires started from the cigarette butts that have not been properly disposed of outside of the entrances/exits."
So, then, it's kind of lame that Red River College's 2003 solution was to invite students and staff to three brainstorming sessions, which resulted in the formation of 20(!) designated smoking areas at Notre Dame Campus.
Considering that I had just one student who identified herself as a smoker in last semester's first-year class (she's very nice, so don't judge her!), 20 smoking areas seems like a lot of square footage.
The college's online smoking policy doesn't include a plan for Princess Street Campus (though I have a hazy, smoke-filled memory of an email about it) and also suggests that a ban could happen...one day:
"We believe that every person has the right to clean air and a safe working environment while on campus. We will be monitoring the implementation of the policy. There is still a possibility of a complete ban of smoking on campus property should the College feel the designated areas program is not working."It also turns out that Red River College offers smoking cessation support through its Health Centre, so you can get a edumacated and cessamacated at the same time. Who knew?!
The best solution?
So, maybe the college's best bet is this (an awesome possibility for this year's first-year PR research assignment):
- Research the "smoking areas." I'll bet that frequency of use is down from '03.
- If I'm right, reduce the number of areas and rethink where the remaining ones should be. Think: far away from where non-smokers or passersby are likely to be.
- Target the people who still smoke there. Educate them about the college's smoking cessation program. Make it easy for them to enroll.
- Communicate that, in one year, there will be no more smoking on campus property.