Universities are promoting smoke-free environment on campus in accordance to the Korean government’s newly enacted law: the National Health Promotion Act. The new regulation went into effect on July 1, prohibiting indoor smoking in restaurants, cafes, bars and PC rooms that are larger than 150 square meters in size. The smoking-ban policy also vows to transform the universities into a smoke-free campus. According to the policy, all campus buildings are designated as non-smoking zones and smoking is confined to only designated areas constructed throughout the campus. Those who violate the rule will be subject to a fine of 100 thousand won.
Accordingly, Korea University, Chung-Ang University, Hanyang University, Sogang University, Dongguk University and many other universities have set up smoking booths on campus which are officially designated smoking areas.
“Before the new government policy, building rooftops were smoking-permitted areas and students were not strongly regulated from smoking in their student activity rooms and club rooms located inside campus buildings,” said Jung Mi-hwa, an official of Facilities Maintenance from Chung-Ang University. “However, those actions are now strictly prohibited and smokers must go to designated smoking areas in order to smoke.”
Sungkyunkwan University has also been encouraging non-smoking environment on campus with its own movement, “Non-Smoking Street Campaign.” With the campaign, smoking in Sungkyunkwan University is banned not only in campus buildings but also on the sidewalks within the campus.
“We have designated seven specific places as smoking areas,” said an official of the general affairs at Sungkyunkwan University who wishes to remain anonymous. “Beside those seven areas, we got rid of all the ashtrays. Students are now only allowed to smoke in those designated areas.”
The national anti-smoking trend is expanding its influence even to the outside campus periphery. Dongdaemun-gu has decided to designate the sidewalk which extends from the main gate of Hankuk University of Foregin Studies (HUFS) to Hankuk Univ. of Foreign Studies Station as a smoke-free street. The policy applies to everyone, including students as well as passersby.
From January 2014, those who do not abide by the policy will be fined. Furthermore, Kyungheedae-ro, a 250-meter-long-street which starts from the main gate of Kyunghee University, has now been set smoke-free. This is the first time streets of campus perimeter are designated smoke-free.
“There is a huge floating population in front of HUFS including students and residents,” said Nam Soon-dong, an official of Dongdaemun-gu Office. “However, the width of the street is very narrow, about 2 to 3 meters, so there is a high possibility of exposure to passive smoking. Therefore, we conducted a survey regarding designating a non-smoking street and the polls revealed that nearly 80 percent of residents and students supported the suggestion.”
Non-smoking students embrace the enforcement of the new policy with open arms.
“Every time I walk the streets on my way back home after school, I frown through the cloudy smoke and smell coming from cigarettes since I am a non-smoker,” Lee Min-young (HUFS, 3) said. “As smoking is now legally prohibited, non-smokers are less likely to confront with smokers.”
However, not everyone supports the government and universities’ efforts to enforce a smoke-free environment and gradually expand non-smoking areas.
“The idea of campus-wide ban on smoking is totally infringing upon smoker’s rights,” Bae Jae-min (Sungkyunkwan University, 4) said. “Smoking is a getaway to relieve stress for smokers. However, it seems that the society and universities are gradually sparing no room for smokers to stand. ”
As for Ewha, there is no future plan for the school to construct specific areas for smoking.
“Prior to the law enforcement, all campus buildings were already designated as non-smoking areas,” said Lee Jae-hak, an official of the Office of General Administration. “Even though some universities such as Korea University have set up smoking booths on campus, Ewha has no plans for doing so for now.”