George Washington University smoking ban opponents stage protest

George Washington University wants to ban smoking on campus, but that has some students and faculty members upset.

Tuesday, opponents of the ban took part in a special protest, gathering on campus to light up.

GWU Senior Daniela Sabler said, "The university isn't your parents. It shouldn't be your parents. It shouldn't have that authority to say this is bad for you, so don't do it. We're not going to allow you to do it."

Freshman Michael Davis was among those protesting a "smoke-free" campus.

"We pay $60,000 to come to the university, and then they tell us that we can't use our own money to buy a legal substance," Davis argued.

Opponents also contend the ban forces smokers to retreat from campus, posing a threat to their security.

More than a dozen smokers attended the protest Tuesday in Kogan Plaza.

Next fall, doing so may not be an option.

The university is considering a 25-foot smoking ban around campus buildings and public spaces.

Andrea Sestanovich, a junior at GWU, said, "I think it's ridiculous to say that I'm going to have to walk eight blocks off campus to be able to do that, especially when I'm studying in the library at 3 o'clock in the morning."

"We are not promoting smoking," Senior Ellis Klein added. "We are promoting freedom and free expression."

The university says it's promoting health.

School officials created a website and YouTube video to drive home the benefits of a smoke-free campus.

University President Steven Knapp said, "We want to make sure that we protect the health and the welfare of all of our members of our George Washington University community."

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard also issued a statement, which said, in part, "We will join more than 800 other U.S. colleges and universities that have made the conscious decision to eliminate smoking campus-wide.

Students have been a driving force behind this initiative, and in the coming months, we will be working with them and other members of the George Washington University community to implement a smoke-free policy on all our campuses."

GWU Sophomore Bryan Hoechner supports the measure, adding, "It is obnoxious when you walk outside of a building and all you can smell is smoke, so I'm a little torn between whether you should be able to smoke so close to a school and whether you should be smoke at all near it."

Thursday, Knapp will officially announce the university's goal of going smoke-free next fall. He's taking part in the American Cancer Society's 37th annual "Great American Smokeout," a day that encourages smokers to quit.

The university is also offering students, faculty, staff and their family members several tobacco cessation program to help them quit.

Additional information is available by calling GWU's Quit Line at 202-994-QUIT.