Smoke-free Den?

As the University of Calgary continues efforts to reduce cigarette smoking on campus, the Students’ Union considers the fate of smokers in the Den and Black Lounge. Under new Calgary bylaws, once an establishment declares itself to be non-smoking, it cannot revert to a smoking environment.

“I think it’s important to keep the Den a smoking environment,” said SU Vice-President External and smoker Nick Vuckovic. “There might be ramifications about healthy students, but making the Den non-smoking is a horrible idea that can only hurt students and the Students’ Union.”

The Students’ Legislative Council considered the matter on Mon., Apr. 4. Concerns raised included the health of students and employees, and potential loss of customers and revenue from smoking customers.

“I don’t think we should be looking at us losing revenue, we should be looking at students, 70 per cent of whom don’t smoke at the Den,” said SU External Commissioner Jim Bailey.

However, Bailey supports keeping the Den a smoking facility.

“The Den is a bar. Bars are smoking. It’s easy,” he said.

Options rejected during the discussion included installing separate ventilation systems for the Den and Black Lounge at a cost of approximately $30,000 so that one could be smoke-free; or making the Black Lounge patio a smoking area, an option prohibited by city bylaws. If the Den becomes non-smoking, smoking patrons would be asked to do so outside.

“Our staff would have to deal with more drunk people standing outside smoking, and patrons butting in lines saying ‘hey, I was just in here,'” said SU VP Academic Jayna Gilchrist.

SU President Matt Stambaugh argued in favour of a non-smoking Den.

“What greater service can you do to students than to preserve their health?” asked Stambaugh.

After extended debate, council felt that students should decide the fate of their watering hole.

“I do not feel as a council we can make a decision as grand as this one without students,” said Gilchrist.

As a smoker, Vuckovic rejected the idea of asking students about the issue.

“If it goes to referendum, my point of view would be defeated, obviously,” he said.

No decisions were made regarding the Den or a referendum. Council was split 8-5 in a non-binding straw-poll vote in favour of making the Den non-smoking, with two members abstaining. Separately, thirteen councilors voted in favour of a plebiscite question on the issue.

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