On Tuesday, the American University in Cairo said it is implementing a new initiative this semester that will work on transforming both its campuses into a completely smoke-free and tobacco free environment by February 2019.
In three phases, the university will begin this February by installing designated smoking areas within the campus’ pedestrian entrances.
During the first phase, “anyone smoking inside the pedestrian entrances must be in a designated area, but outside the pedestrian entrances everyone is free to smoke where they like,” a statement sent to the AUC community on Tuesday, said.
The next phase, which will commence in September 2018, the university policy will transition away from the designated smoking areas within the pedestrian entrances of campus.
“This phase will transform all areas within the pedestrian entrances into smoke-free areas and continue to permit smoking anywhere outside the pedestrian entrances,” the statement explained.
Moving onto the final phase, planned for February 2019, tobacco use will be “prohibited everywhere on AUC property; there will be absolutely no smoking allowed inside or outside the pedestrian entrances of AUC.”
The AUC cites reports by the WHO and the US Surgeon General concluding that second hand smoke exposures causes disease and premature death in children and adults who do not smoke, and that any exposure to tobacco smoke, even an occasional cigarette or exposure to secondhand smoke, is harmful.
Additionally, in 2010 the WHO published a report on secondhand smoke that found that more than 600,000 deaths per year worldwide, more than 1 percent of all deaths, are caused by secondhand smoke.
“As an educational institution, the American University in Cairo is committed to creating a tobacco-free environment on campus to respect the rights of non-smokers and protect the well-being of students, faculty, staff and visitors,” the university states.
Under Egyptian law, it is illegal to smoke in an educational establishment, “therefore this policy is designed to bring AUC into closer compliance with Egyptian law.”
However, AUC students and alumnus are heavily challenging the implementation of the policy.
“I think that specifying the entirety of the AUC Campus as a non-smoking one isn’t the most applicable nor the most compromising of decisions the administration could implement. It’s understandable that some individuals need a healthier surrounding, but it should also be understandable that smoking is a legal habit that’s taken by a considerable portion of the AUC community. A solution of sticking to specialized non-smoking areas on campus would be a better one,” Omar Abdel Sattar, a computer engineer graduate from AUC told Egypt Independent.
Salma El-Saeed, an AUC alumna, shared Abdel Sattar’s sentiments regarding sticking to specific areas for smoking, because it’ll reduce the littering of cigarette butts all over campus.
“I believe it is a far-fetched plan, to be honest. There are a lot of students, faculty and staff who smoke and expecting them to go off-campus every time they want to have a cigarette or go the whole day without smoking isn’t really feasible, especially because the campus is so big, so leaving the AUC property is a hassle,” she said.
Speaking to The Caravan, AUC’s weekly publication in November, Professor of Engineering Maki Habib indicated that the issue at stake is policy enforcement.
“I don’t know why we are shying away from penalties.. implementing a policy cannot work without penalties,” he told The Caravan.
Luciana Antonious, a 2015 alumna believes that the policy “makes no sense,” adding that no penalties being implemented would not stop the community from smoking.
“What about the people who reside on campus dorms, are they expected not to smoke at all? What about all the public events, workshops, lectures, activities, concerts that take place on campus? Will the university administration tell all the public speakers not to smoke on premises?” Antonious asked.
She added that the policy isn’t very practical, even for students who are on campus from 8am until 5pm, mostly stressed out.
“They’ll have to take their cars or walk all the way out of campus just for a cigarette, I don’t think it is practical at all.
In January, the American University of Beirut (AUB) announced that the campus is officially tobacco-free.
AUB said it is committed to creating an environment that promotes healthy habits by reducing people’s trigger to smoke cigarettes and protecting the members of the community from exposure to secondhand smoke.