“I cannot understand why smoking areas are located in places with a large floating population.” There are lots of students showing their dissatisfactions and complaints towards smoking areas in the internet communities such as Sseodam and Facebook. Smoking areas have always been a point of dispute in Sogang University. The ground for voices that claim the importance of sincere discussion about smoking areas is that the campus is the students’ life space. From the first class all through the last class, students have to spend almost half the day in campus. Non-smokers insist that because of inadequately placed smoking areas, they are suffering from second-hand smoking. Unlike the cases of smoking out of campus, smokers also insist that they should be given a place to freely smoke in campus. So, the Sogang Herald’s The Public Eye looked into the controversy by hearing students’ thoughts about the adequacy of locating the smoking area.
According to Greenpost Korea, Seoul’s non-smoking areas have doubled in a year which left the smokers no where to go. Policies were made to lessen the percentage of smokers and meet the needs of non-smokers who had complaints about smoking in public places. Busan decided to ban smoking near subway stations within ten meters. Smoking rooms are disappearing in all Korean airports. Indeed the smokers left the cigarette ends disastrously on the ground and generated smoke that disturb non-smokers. However smokers point out that the policy was a hasty decision to just lessen the smoking areas before arranging concrete implementation rules. As a result, smokers tend to smoke in non-smoking areas, and this aggravates the problem. Reflecting the case, the way to resolve the conflict between the smokers and the non-smokers is not by blindly increasing the non-smoking areas but to listen to both sides and make a compromised plan.
Following the trend in dwindling the smoking spots, Sogang university removed some of these. The decrease of the smoking areas in campus has been announced through the website in March, 2018, but still lots of students are not aware of the alteration in smoking spots. In 2012, accepting the proposal for designating smoking areas in campus, Sogang university assigned 23 places as smoking spots. Initially, Sogang university had announced a slogan to make a non-smoking university. However, the measures could not make the smokers quit cigarette, but only made the non-smokers endure the smoke in the whole campus. This led to problems such as cigarette litter and second-hand smoking making the matters worse. Now, there are 19 smoking spots in campus and yet even after making changes in smoking areas, some point out that the fundamental problem has not been improved.
1. Second-hand Smoking
Smoking areas were made to prevent second-hand smoking by separating smokers and non-smokers but complaints by non-smokers have not decreased. In a short interview with Lee Yoon-seo (18, Dept. of English), she did not hesitate to disclose the disgust towards the smoke. “I have a hard time holding my breath especially in front of the K building. Because the smoking area is located on the second floor of the building, the air is filled with smoke and the odor is too strong to endure.” She also added, “Smoking areas are located in places where almost all the students have to pass by. I think that placing the smoking areas in opened spots does not prevent second-hand smoking.” There are voices that Sogang university should also step out to make a change. Although making the entire building a non-smoking area might be impossible, relocating the smoking areas is worth consideration.
2. Polluted Rest Areas
Smoking areas are not separated with students’ path. They are placed in shelters or places right next to those. The rest areas are decorated with spotted green leaves and benches which gives a warm feeling. However, we cannot see students sitting on the benches in break times between classes. Instead, students can see smokers encroaching the shelters and the smoke from their cigarettes. Non-smokers could not use the benches because of the smoking area right beside them. Also, the trash the smokers generate is also considerable. There are cigarette ends and other trash they threw on the ground and on the benches.
3. Unclear Smoking Signs
Among the 19 smoking areas, three places have unclear smoking signs. The smoking signs in front of the MA building and the BW building were erased and could not act as indicators. There were students who were smoking in those areas, but the smoking areas will be hard for people new to school to locate the smoking areas. This situation will surely give students confusion and this should be altered immediately. To add, the shelter on the left side of the main entrance gate is not designated as a smoking area, but students can easily see people smoking at the spot. In these cases, the school should put non-smoking area signs at the place and replace the unclear smoking signs.
4. Smoking in Non-Smoking Areas
Even though there are enough smoking areas in campus, students can easily see people smoking in non-smoking areas. There is a notice that whoever violates the rule to smoke only in smoking areas have to pay fines less than ten thousand ￦. But still cigarette ends are scattered in non-smoking areas and the smokers in those areas do not seem to find any problems in their actions. This is related with the attitudes of the smokers because there are enough smoking areas in the campus, and right next to the area in the picture below, there is a large smoking area only for smokers.
Although people have contrasting ideas, some smokers also raise their voices that insist changes in smoking areas. In an interview with Baek Ju-ho (18, Dept. of English), he empathized with the non-smokers’ sufferings. “Actually I know that non-smokers are having a hard time holding their breath while they walk throughthe path right next to the smoking area. I feel sorry for them, and I also think that there should be a change in the location and form of the smoking areas.” He furthermore added, “Besides the second-hand smoking, I think that smokers should take care of the trash they generate while smoking.” Another Soganger (18, Dept. of English) said, “The smoking areas are indeed in places accessible for smokers, but I think that non-smokers can feel uncomfortable of the smoke in the road. I sometimes feel sorry for the non-smokers when they show signs of unpleasure.”
As a resolution to this problem, some recommend building smoking booths in campus. The students claim that smoking booths can be helpful in resolving the controversy between the smokers and the non-smokers in the internet communities. Smoking booths can separate the smoke and the road which will decrease the difficulties of the non-smokers. However, others insist that it will have no effect at all. “The smoking booths can make the matter worse because it has to be discussed deeply in terms of effectiveness. Thinking realistically, smoking booths cannot be equipped in large sizes. The place would not be large enough to accommodate all the smokers, and the hot air inside the smoking booths will not make the smokers go inside the booths even in extreme weathers. Also, the smoking air inside the booth would permeate the clothes which will give more harm to non-smokers in class,” said a Soganger (18, Dept. of English). By interviewing the ideas of smokers and non-smokers, the contrasting opinions about smoking areas between smokers and non-smokers could be seen clearly. The two interviewees below were asked if they are satisfied with the amount and location of the smoking areas, if they knew each side’s complaints and difficulties, and if they thought there should be a change in smoking areas.
Kang Chul-min (13, School of Communication): I think that the policy of Sogang University designating smoking areas, not non-smoking areas, is good for all students. Smokers smoke in smoking areas, and non-smokers can be free from the smoke. So, I am not sure why non-smokers are complaining about smoking in smoking areas. I thought that non-smokers only had disgust about smokers smoking in non-smoking areas. I have no complaints about the location of the smoking areas, but it will be better if the school placed more trash bins in the smoking areas and make more smoking areas in campus.
Lee Ye-won (18, Dept. of English): I think that smoking areas should be relocated, especially the one in front of the RA building. Right next to the smoking area is the sidewalk, and people have to breath in the smoke even if they do not want to. Also, I think there are excessive amount of smoking areas in campus. So, I do not actually know the troubles smokers have because smoking areas are located in almost every building. I definitely agree with the idea that the university should lessen the numbers, or relocate some smoking areas to places that can separate smokers with non-smokers.
To find the modification of smoking areas to satisfy both sides, there is a need to make a place for discussion with both sides. Before, smoking areas has not been taken as a topic of discussion to neither the non-smokers and the smokers. Each sides had problems of their own but they only stepped out to complaining their difficulties. Instead of going against one’s opinions, both sides should make a chance to discuss the future plan of the smoking areas and ways to satisfy both sides. Some smokers recognize the unpleasures of the non-smokers, but they still cannot fully understand each sides. In the current situation, the best way suggested is to replace the smoking areas located in places with large floating population to rooftops or places behind the buildings. Also, to arrange with the trash smokers generate, more trash bins should be installed in smoking areas to put cigarette ends in. To prevent smokers to smoke in non-smoking areas, school policies should be reinforced. Additionally, notices that they would get a intensified penalty such as higher fines should be widely announced to students. Lastly, two of the smoking signs should be replaced with a new one, which will help non-smokers who did not know that was a smoking area and suffer from the smoke. Besides the worn smoking signs, the shelter on the left side of the main entrance should be taken into consideration if it should be designated officially as a smoking area or not. As the campus is intertwined with the life space of students, each sides should understand their stands and find a compromised plan to increase the satisfaction rates of the students.
By Chang Lee-jun, Public Reporter