Smoking cigarette has been an endless controversial issue in Korean society. In 2014 The Korean Government announced a tax hike as a way of decreasing the smoking rate. The Korean Government emphasized that this measure is not to increase tax revenue but to improve Public health in Korean society. As a result, since 2015 the tax on a pack of cigarettes has increased from 1,550 won to 3,318 won, accelerating the smoking-related conflicts in Korean society. Since smokers pay lots of taxes, they think they are paying reasonable prices for their negative external effect from smoking. However, non-smokers claim, it makes no sense that relatively small smoking group continuously harms the majority, as there are many research results proving second hand smoking, even third-hand smoking can cause cancer.
Smoking related conflicts in Sogang University
In Sogang University, smoking related conflicts such as feeling discomfort from second-hand smoking, indiscreetly throwing away cigarettes everywhere and even smoking in restrooms have been continuously proposed through diverse media. For instance, there was a posting on Sogang University Bamboo Grove, a facebook page where students can anonymously post their thoughts, that criticized smokers who smoke in the non-smoking areas, especially around D hall stairs. This anonymous student said “Although I understand there only few smoking areas in Sogang University, and that the desire to smoke is one that can’t easily be endured, but just like a civil citizen who excretes in a public place deserves to be blamed, smokers causing discomforts to nonsmokers by smoking in non-smoking areas deserve the same”.
Efforts by Woo:ri, the 46th Undergraduate Student Council
To solve the smoking related problems in campus, Woo:ri conducted a survey on April 23th to investigate the actual conditions of non-smoking areas in Sogang university. Based on the results from this survey, which secured over 500 samples, the student council set a plan consisting 3 steps. First, since the smoking areas around the gymnasium and Gonzaga Hall were too close to the pathway which many students use, they rearranged these smoking areas to less populated areas. Secondly, the student council conveyed these rearranged smoking areas to The Office of Financial Aid and Students Activity(OFASA), as well as made an announcement on Sogang University’s official website. When the Office of Student Affairs and Woo;ri announced their new smoking areas, they made it clear that it is official school policy to make the whole of Sogang University’s district smoke-free zones except for the posted smoking areas. Lastly, to manage the smoking area, the student council faced a problem of regulation. Restricting the smokers who smoke in non-smoking areas, ADT personnel or students should monitor them. However, unlike restricting alcohol in campus, smoking can’t be easily restricted by ADT personnel, since smoking is more frequently done both in time and space. If ADT is not adequate for monitoring forbidden smoking, then the alternative would be students, but for a student to monitor a fellow student arouses a moral issue that would not be accepted easily. As an alternative plan, the student council is proceeding to establish ‘smoking-booths’ in campus. According to a survey conducted by Woo:ri, 40.2% of students were very positive about building smoking booths, and another 28.9% of students were also positive. Yang Gui-Nam (14, Mass Communication), the director of welfare in Woo;ri, said that with OFASA they are discussing building smoking booths in non-smoking areas where smokers frequently smoke between R and K Hall, 1st floor of J hall based on the survey results. The Student council expects the smoking booths to be established before the 2016 fall semester if the office of Student Affairs allows their business quickly.
Smoking related conflicts, a difficult issue to arrange
There are many students who feel very positive about the efforts by the Student Council, especially students who had been at school before the smoking areas were established. Park Chan(13, Mass Communication) stated, “When I first entered Sogang University, smoking areas were not designated accurately so people usually smoked everywhere, which felt quite irresponsible to me. However, since the Student Council has managed the smoking areas, even though I am a smoker, it became more comfortable for me, since I don’t have to be self-conscious about the way other people stare at me when I smoke in smoking areas.” Despite such efforts from the Undergraduate Student Council, smoking related conflicts basically arise from the contradiction of different interests, which makes it extremely difficult for Woo;ri to satisfy all Sogangers. Cho Hyung-Kyung (13, Mass Communication), a non-smoker, criticized some irrational smokers in campus: “Although many students try to keep to the smoking areas, still there are many students who don’t. I have seen some students smoking around D hall and J hall, even though there were signs that clearly showed these places were non-smoking areas, these signs didn’t work for them”. However, still other students expressed discomfort about the opinions on Sogang University Bamboo Groves that the smoking areas are not kept effectively. When asked about the complaints on the Bamboo Groves, an anonymous student stressed his discomfort about it, “To be compared with the past, I think smokers are relatively keeping the smoking areas well, but some people publicize a few bad cases on Internet through the Bamboo Grove and overgeneralize them, as if many smokers don’t keep to the smoking areas”.
The smoking related conflicts are not only limited to the students, since some smokers indiscreetly throw away cigarettes everywhere and don’t keep to the smoking areas, so many cleaners at Sogang University are having a hard time keeping our campus clean. Kim Hui-Sook, the president of Korean Women’s Trade Union Sogang University Branch, explained how hard it is to clean deserted cigarettes and phlegm from smokers. When asked about any difficulties from smokers, she said, “In restrooms some students spit on the floor and in the urinals, which is really difficult to clean. Recently we have even seen some students smoking in restrooms.”
Negative views on Smoking booths
As it is very tricky to punish students who don’t keep to the smoking areas, the Woo;ri conceived of smoking booths as an alternative. However, there are many negative views on the effectiveness of building smoking booths in campus. Professor Yoo Hyun-Jae(Dept. of Mass Communication) expressed his ideas about smoking booths, “I think the Student Council should be very considerate in the process of building smoking-booths. After smoking booths are built in campus, smokers and non-smokers would be divided and become you and me, not us. Additionally, of course the budget to establish smoking booths will be expensive, I think.” And people who have experienced smoking booths outside of campus also criticized building smoking-booths in campus. An anonymous Soganger showed his pessimistic view on the effectiveness of smoking booths, “From my past experiences of using smoking booths, they are very isolated and stuffy, so I’m very pessimistic whether smokers would use smoking booths or not. If they don’t use them, then it would be a waste of budget to build smoking booths in campus.”
A conflict arises from the collision of different interests and understanding is very difficult to resolve. Smoking is a typical example. If a policy is implemented to regulate that kind of conflict by reflecting one side of view, then the other group would get disadvantages through that policy. However, in Sogang University, which is a student society, non-smokers who are harmed from second-hand smoking and smokers who struggle to withstand their smoking desire are all our colleagues. The fact that we are in a student society can be an obstacle when mediating conflicts because it makes it hard for us to monitor each other when restrictions are needed. However, unlike outside society, our student society’s distinct property can provide us another possibility when coordinating conflicts. Since we the Sogangers are all connected in a student society, we have enough common ground to understand each other. Professor Yoo pointed out that “Since second-hand smoking and even third-hand smoking are medically proved to cause cancer, smokers should be considerate of their non-smoking colleagues. Also if non-smokers were to draw a line between themselves and their smoking colleagues, our Sogang student society would lose its distinct property and become the same as the outside society. We should begin a campaign that can convey a persuasive message to both smokers and non-smokers in Sogang University.” when asked a possible solution to smoking-related conflicts, both smokers and non-smokers answered that a mutual understanding should be preceded. This implies that a practical campaign helping students to form such a mutual understanding should take place.
On last year’s fall semester, the Sogang AD, the only advertising club in Sogang university executed a ‘Make Sogang’s sky bright! Clean!’ campaign. They placed some signs showing a bright sky over Sogang University around non-smoking areas where people frequently smoke, and encouraged people to attach cloud-shaped post-its when they see people who smoke there, so that the clouds can block the bright sky. As a result, post-its attached to the signs gradually decreased and this campaign succeeded in getting many positive responses from students.
The student council said that they will plan a campaign that can convey persuasive messages to students after the smoking booths are built in campus. Although it doesn’t have to be a campaign, something that helps to build a shared value among Sogangers should be implemented to make our Sogang University a better place.