Students keep smoking, despite tax

Main Campus remains a haven for smokers despite tax and unenforced laws.

Grace MeredithAlmost a year ago, in September 2014, when Philadelphia added a $2 tax to any pack of cigarettes sold within city limits and almost a quarter of the city experienced a bite out of their wallets.

According to data from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey, 22.4 percent of Philadelphians consider themselves regular smokers in 2014 and 2015. The new tax policy was one of many measures the Mayor Michael Nutter administration has passed with the goal to reduce smoking in Philadelphia. Another includes the city ordinance which essentially states one cannot smoke a cigarettes within 20 feet of a public building.

A July article reported the cigarette tax has generated $50.2 million dollars, all going toward the historically meager and suffering Philadelphia School system—a small but significant dent in their currently lacking budget.

On and near Main Campus, however, the new legislation made for a  grim day for many smokers. There is an obvious abundance of smokers on Temple’s campus, students and faculty alike, but many flock to the suburbs to get their cigarettes for $6.50 instead of something with a price equivalent to a monthly Netflix subscription.

But there is one law that Temple may not be enforcing, although it could be a gray area. According to Philadelphia City Bill No. 050063 Part A, which concerns restrictions on public smoking, smoking cigarettes is prohibited within 20 feet of “any school or educational or vocational facility.” Under “General Policy Statements,” Temple states its commitment to providing a smoke-free environment in its first sentence. But, outside of every school building, there are both students and professors smoking.

First, and perhaps most importantly, this law is obviously not well enforced—or perhaps not at all—in Philadelphia. When I attended high school near Northwest Philadelphia, it was a common stereotype that many Philadelphians smoke, and both then and now it seems in Center City there are people from all walks of life smoking cigarettes, from nurses to executives to students. When considering this, and just based on the fact that I have never seen a Philadelphia police officer ask someone to step 20 feet away from a building while smoking, it begs the question: should Temple police be expected to enforce it as well?

As of 2010, Temple updated its 2006 policy on smoking, prohibiting it within 25 feet of a main entrance to a building, stricter than Philadelphia’s own 20 foot ban. There was no public data for the amount of Temple smokers, a 2010 American Lung Association reported only 19.2 percent of college students smoked, down from 30.6 percent in 1999. According to the same report, most college student smokers start in high school, are equally likely to be male or female, are predominantly white and are more likely to be social smokers. The Association also reported a higher use of alcohol and other substances among smokers.

Everyone knows smoking is bad for your health, even smokers. Many people have lost friends and relatives to smoking-related illnesses, and the campus group “Smoke-Free Temple” is quite active, often seen on Pollett Walk, encouraging students to sign anti-smoking petitions. It is understandable why people want Main Campus to be smoke-free.

Others, however, believe as adults, people should be able to make their own informed decisions. Andrew Royal, a junior art education major said he would not appreciate the enforcement.

“I need a cig when I take breaks in the middle of class, and it’s just enough time to have one. The 25-feet rule would inhibit me from doing so.”

In a stressful major with a heavy workload, cigarettes can be a vice to alleviate stress. However, only time will tell what social and cultural trends may impact smoking on college campuses, and how acceptable it is.

Grace Meredith can be reached at

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