Tobacco must stay away from St. Thomas buildings

Smell that? That’s the potent fragrance of tobacco and nicotine polluting the St. Thomas air.


A week ago, I unlocked my room on the third floor of Dowling Hall to breathe in that odor that most non-smokers detest. I shut the window, opened my door and proceeded to spray air freshener to mask the stench. Needless to say, my room ended up smelling like burnt lilac toast. However, the irritating smell is not the most detrimental part of this annoyance.

If the dorms are smoke-free, then why can I still smell it? The campus air may have a natural filter against pollutants, but the dorms are enclosed and full of residents that may have asthma, cystic fibrosis, bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses.

These diseases become more severe with exposure to carcinogens like smoke. Secondhand smoke causes nearly 3,000 deaths each year, according to the Stanford Medical website. These reasons alone should invoke stricter rules when it comes to smoking on campus.

Students stand outside the dorms at night; they light up at the entrance to John Paul II and smoke under the arches and on the McNeely Hall patio. There’s not much a student on campus can do to get away from smoke, even if it is consequential to his or her health.

There is a certain type of smoking that can affect residents from even farther away than cigarettes. Hookah is a type of smoking popular among students that may not regularly smoke cigarettes. This is a social way of smoking tobacco done around a water pipe that indirectly heats tobacco through water before inhaling.

The “hookah circle,” as it is most commonly called, happens mostly in the Upper Quad. Since it is smoked in a group with as many students that can fit around it, there is a greater radius of air contamination. At times, I am able to smell the hookah circle in the Upper Quad from as far away as the O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library.

<p>A St. Thomas student smokes a cigarette an appropriate distance from the dorms so it doesn't affect residents. (Laura Landvik/TommieMedia)</p>
A St. Thomas student smokes a cigarette an appropriate distance from the dorms so it doesn't affect residents. (Laura Landvik/TommieMedia)

I know there has been an effort to create a boundary between the smoke and the dorms. There are now signs on the entrances to Dowling Hall that tell smokers to stay 30 feet away from the building, or they will be asked to move. This has not been an effective deterrent for on-campus smokers, nor does it apply to the potent hookah circle.

Mike Orth, Undergraduate Student Government president, said the council is working with Public Safety and other campus departments to figure out how to make St. Thomas a tobacco-free campus.

“We’re looking into how it would be enforced and how we would implement it. We’re doing research and bringing in people from St. Kate’s because they’ve gone tobacco free,” Orth said.

Despite these efforts, there still needs to be greater consequences like fines for the smokers that stand too close to the dorms. Those enforcing the smoking regulations need to be constantly on the lookout for smokers breaking the rules. St. Thomas could even go smoke-free or provide a designated place for smokers that wouldn’t affect the students.

My plea is for St. Thomas to take smoking more seriously for the sake of the students that pay to live and breathe here. Students’ lives should come before a bad habit in every situation.

Laura Landvik can be reached at

12 Replies to “Tobacco must stay away from St. Thomas buildings”

  1. Pubic safety should confiscate cigarettes from students and then burn them every month in an “eradicating smoking” rally put on by the Dease patrol.

  2. Get off your high horse. We have every right to be outside and be social with our friends and do what we enjoy as long as it is within the law. Just because you and a small handful of people don’t approve of a smell (and trust me you are more than exaggerating if you say you can smell it in the library all the way from by the church) doesn’t mean you can force your morals and wants onto others. And you say “students’ lives should come before a bad habit in every situation”, please elaborate on how you will die from the smell of vapors when you are easily more than 300ft away in Dowling from where we do it. You say people pay to live and breathe here, well so do I, I pay out of my own pocket to go here without any assistance form my parents.

  3. I find it very hard to believe that the smell of a one or two hookahs can be smelled from the library if the students are in the upper quad.  The smoke to air ratio cannot possibly be that overwhelming that it can be smelled past 2 buildings. Could she be smelling exhaust and fumes from some of the nearby buildings?  A suggestion to have cigarette smokers be further away from the buildings is this: have ash trays/cans further from the buildings.  They don’t have to be enormous concrete pieces, a tin box with slots would do.  An example of this can be found at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus.  It’s easier for the students of both preferences.

  4. I hate your opinion! This is revolting to me that you think you are able to take away my rights as an American. Despicable! 

  5. And I hate your opinion Julius! That you can take away my, “rights as an American”, to clean, breathable air… Who’s despicable now?

  6. Although I have not been able to smell smoke from the upper quad down by the library, I too am disgusted by the amount of smoke on campus. I hate having to hold my breath when I walk outside a building and then gagging as my first big gulp of air 15 ft later has more carcinogens than oxygen. While I believe it is an infringement of rights to make campus completely tobacco free, I am happy with any efforts to reduce the use of tobacco here on campus. I despise it.

  7. To be fair, St. Thomas is a private school, so it can ignore your “rights as an American” as much as it wants. If you even have a right to smoke, St. Thomas doesn’t have to protect it and could ban persons from smoking on its campus at any point. 

  8.  If we want to ban fumes and smells, I say we ban any student from taking any form of transit to school that burns fuel. Plenty of studies have linked car exhaust to health problems, not to mention environmental concerns. No matter how much air-freshener we spray, the campus is still saturated with particulates from all the traffic and the smell is something we’ve just gotten used to

  9. Studies show that greasy and fatty foods lead to clogged articles, poor circulation, and increase your risk of heart attacks…better ban Scooters and T’s from campus!…no cheeseburgers either. Thank you so much for writing this article, we can all be healthier and live longer because of you. You should campaign against the dangerous levels of smog and pollution in the Twin Cities next. YOU CAN DO IT!!!!!…oh, also, if your Stanford statistics hold true, and smoking kills 3,000 people on Earth each year, your odds are better at winning a lottery than dying from secondhand smoke. Sincerely, someone who doesn’t preach from the pulpit. 

  10. Also, the S.A. near campus has a great deal on Tourney cigarettes, $4.50 a pack; get ’em while they’re cheap!

  11. Well I do have to agree that smoking at the doors of the dorms should be more strictly enforced because as a non-cigarette smoker I don’t really like the smell.  Also I don’t think you know what hookah smoke smells like because even if you could smell it from the library, which you can’t, it is not an offensive smell like cigarettes.  Usually it smells like fruit or flowers, so before you say you don’t like the smell then you should probably get within 20 feet of a hookah circle because that’s the only way you will smell it on the quad.  I think you are making smokers out to be bad people who are trying to kill everyone around them when in reality they are only doing what they like to do.  Hookah circles are actually very friendly, at least my circle is, and are very welcoming even if you don’t want to smoke people are always welcome to just hang out.  Even though I do not smoke cigarettes I have many friends who do and I don’t think its fair to tell people they can’t do something even though its legal just because you don’t like it.  What if I told you you couldn’t throw a Frisbee in the quad because I was scared it would hit me in the head.  That’s about how ridiculous the idea of banning smoking is because if we ban that lets just ban everything thats…

  12. dangerous, no bikes, no Frisbee, and especially no baseball in the quad…. I can’t tell you how many times I almost get hit by these things but we can’t just stop doing them, its a part of life   

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