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U of T to be smoke-free beginning on Jan. 1

Photo of students walking on campus.

Photo by Ken Jones.

The University of Toronto will begin the new year with a smoke-free campus.

Governing Council yesterday approved a new smoke-free policy that prohibits smoking and vaping tobacco, cannabis and other products on all U of T property, including in vehicles.

The new policy, which takes effect Jan. 1, is being implemented on all three U of T campuses to ensure students, faculty and staff – as well as visitors and the surrounding community – enjoy a safe and healthy environment.

The university has launched a website that answers questions about the new policy and provides links to resources.

“The health risks associated with smoking and second-hand smoke are significant and well-documented,” said Kelly Hannah-Moffat, U of T’s vice-president of human resources and equity.

“We want our U of T community members to be able to go about their work, studies and other activities without exposure to the dangers posed by second-hand smoke.”

Statistics from the Canadian Cancer Society link smoking to the deaths of 37,000 people annually in Canada. That makes smoking a significant cause of preventable disease, disability and premature death in the country, according to the Canadian Council for Tobacco Control.

Health Canada, meanwhile, estimates as many as 800 non-smokers die each year from heart disease and lung cancer as a consequence of their exposure to second-hand smoke.

U of T first announced plans to change its decades-old smoking policy in November. The new policy comes on the heels of the province’s decision to allow the smoking of cannabis in public spaces – a move that could increase the danger of second-hand smoke exposure.

Read more about U of T’s smoke-free policy

By going smoke-free, U of T will join other North American universities and colleges that have decided to stamp out smoking on their campuses.

U of T’s new smoke-free policy applies to all employees, students, volunteers, contractors and visitors. It includes an exemption for Indigenous ceremonial practices and will allow for medical accommodations in accordance with the law. U of T Mississauga and U of T Scarborough will also be allowed to implement designated smoking areas during a transition period.

Hannah-Moffat said the university is committed to providing a safe, healthy environment and to support students, staff and faculty as U of T’s smoke-free policy is implemented. That includes helping smokers who want to quit.

“We want to do what we can to promote and encourage a healthy lifestyle,” she said.

Staff and faculty have access to a smoking-cessation program through Green Shield, U of T’s health benefits provider, as well as an online course that’s available through the university’s employee and family assistance program. Students, meantime, can access smoking-cessation programs through health and wellness centres at U of T Scarborough and the downtown Toronto campus, as well as at the Health and Counselling Centre at U of T Mississauga.