Students looking to smoke in their dorm rooms next year will either need to move outside or kick the habit.
The University announced Wednesday that it will prohibit smoking in all residence halls beginning next semester, citing accidental fire alarms, health concerns and maintenance issues. A letter sent by the Residence Hall Association to GW administrators in December inspired the new policy.
“The RHA thought it would a good idea to benefit students in a direct and tangible way,” said senior Daniel Miller, president of the RHA. “We felt like it was not only a facilities issue but a student health concern.”
Miller said fumes from cigarette, cigar and other types of smoke often “waft” through a building’s ventilation system and can cause second-hand smoke and affect asthmatic students.
“We want to make the University cleaner and safer,” he said.
Students are currently able to light up in their residence hall rooms so long as their roommates agree that smoking can take place in their living space.
RHA Vice President John Ostrower said his group did a study on the effects of smoking in residence hall rooms and determined that the benefits of banning indoor smoking would far outweigh the complaints from students who engage in the activity.
“We spoke to Facilities Management and (the Community Living and Learning Center) and found out that it was causing paint to deteriorate in
residence halls like The Schenley, getting into carpets and wafting through the buildings,” he said.
Ostrower added that the policy was enacted as a result of a “good working relationship” between the RHA and University administrators.
“GW is pleased to support this student-driven initiative and applauds the RHA’s convincing health and safety arguments for implementing a no-smoking policy in all residence halls,” said John Williams, University provost and vice president for health affairs, in a written statement.
Though GW sees the ban as a measure that will benefit students all around campus, Miller acknowledged that some students who smoke in their rooms may be upset with the new rule.
“We recognized in the letter that there may be some backlash from students who want to smoke in their rooms, but we want to work with students who smoke to find more options outside of residence halls,” said Miller, adding that the RHA is looking into placing more ashtrays around the University.
The RHA also conducted debates about the policy and determined that “less than a few hundred” students request to live in a smoking room, Miller said. He added that many schools that GW compares itself to, such as Boston University, have already enacted smoking bans in their dorms.
The penalty for smoking inside a GW residence hall would be “minor” and similar to that a student would face for lighting a candle in a room, Miller said. A statement released Wednesday said officials are working to codify the no-smoking policy.
“Those details still haven’t been worked out,” Miller said.
Some smokers did not seem to mind that they would be unable to enjoy a smoke in their dorm.
“I can just go outside. It’s not that big of a hassle,” said sophomore Ben Molinari, as he took a puff outside the Marvin Center. “I’m sure some people are going to be upset about it.”
“I don’t smoke in my room,” said freshman Lizzie Karnash, after taking a long draw off a cigarette outside of Fulbright Hall. “I agree that it’s unfair for people that smoke in their rooms. There should be a place inside where people can smoke.”
Karnash said the University should create designated smoking areas in residence halls.
But freshman Greg McDonald, who lives on the all-smoking ninth floor of Thurston Hall, said the new rule is “horrible.”
“As a smoker, it bothers me,” he said. “If all the roommates agree to allow smoking in the room, then it should be allowed.”
Abby Karow, a non-smoking freshman, said she was extremely happy about the ban.
“Thank God,” she said. “The smell reeks.”
-Jeanette Axelrod, Amanda Limmer and Casey Pond contributed to this report.