Smoke Free Campus FAQ

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Why has McMaster decided to adopt a Tobacco and Smoke-Free Campus?

As a leader in evidence-informed research, we are committed to providing a healthy environment to live, learn, work and play. McMaster’s strong commitment to creating a healthier society has been shown by our signing of the Okanagan Charter. By adopting a tobacco and smoke-free campus, we are supporting this commitment and our strategic priorities.

What does a Tobacco and Smoke-Free Campus mean?

McMaster’s Tobacco and Smoke-Free Campus eliminates the use of tobacco products and smoking such as cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, mini-cigars, pipes, water pipes, hookah, shisha, and cannabis on any University property. It also includes the use of electronic smoking devices which create an aerosol or vapor, in any manner or in any form, or the use of any oral smoking device. This definition does not include emissions from University approved-for-use equipment, e.g. smoke machines, approved pyrotechnics.

Does the policy include Indigenous traditional and sacred medicines?

McMaster University recognizes the unique relationship that many Indigenous cultures have with traditional and sacred medicines such as tobacco, sweet grass, sage, and cedar, among others. As such, exemptions to this policy will be granted to McMaster University community members, upon request, for the burning of these medicines as part of Indigenous cultural and spiritual practices.

Exemptions will be granted under the Environmental and Occupational Health Support Services (EOHSS) ‘Procedure for Burning Sacred Medicines’. This exemption procedure will support a campus environment that is inclusive and welcoming while recognizing and respecting the health and safety of all members of the McMaster community.

To whom does the Tobacco and Smoke-Free Campus apply?

The Tobacco and Smoke-Free Campus applies to all members of the university community (Community Members) including, but not limited to, students (graduate, undergraduate, and continuing education), staff, faculty, postdoctoral fellows, adjunct professors, visiting professors, sessional faculty, teaching assistants, clinical faculty, librarians, medical residents, volunteers, visitors, observers, contractors, and institutional administrators and officials representing McMaster University.

Does the Tobacco and Smoke-Free Campus extend to other McMaster University-owned property outside of the Hamilton campus?

The Tobacco and Smoke-Free Campus policy applies to all land boundaries owned, controlled and leased by McMaster University, inclusive of buildings, learning places, public places, and workplaces. Those who wish to smoke or use tobacco or oral smoking devices are asked to leave McMaster property.

Can employees smoke in their personal vehicle while on McMaster University property?  What about University vehicles?

Using tobacco and smoking is prohibited on McMaster property and therefore tobacco use and smoking are not permitted inside or outside of vehicles while parked on McMaster property.

Smoking in University vehicles has been prohibited for several years, and remains so under the proposed policy and in compliance with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act.

What about football games, outdoor concerts, or other public events on campus?

All events occurring on McMaster property are subject to the tobacco and smoke-free campus. This includes, but is not limited to, athletic events, concerts, theatre, exhibitions, meetings, conferences, weddings, etc. The tobacco and smoke-free campus applies to anyone entering the University property for any reason.

How will new students and employees be advised that McMaster’s campus is tobacco and smoke-free?

There will be signage, communication and information available on McMaster’s website. New employees and students will be informed of their obligations during their orientation.

Are students, staff, faculty, volunteers, and visitors expected to quit smoking or using tobacco?

No, the University does not mandate people to quit smoking or stop using tobacco products. The purpose of the tobacco and smoke-free campus is to create a healthier campus for all. However, the University is dedicated to supporting those who want to manage their tobacco use and those who choose to quit using tobacco products. Tobacco cessation resources for students, staff, faculty and the public are available on the Tobacco and Smoke-Free Campus website.

I know someone on campus that wants to quit smoking. Where can they get help?

We know quitting smoking is a process that doesn’t happen the same way for everyone. Research shows that smoking cessation is most successful with a combination of support, coaching and medications. Staff, faculty and students can all access supports through campus wellness programs, by speaking with their personal health-care provider or accessing community programs such as the free Smoker’s Helpline (1-877-513-5333) or website: . For a full list of supports, visit the Tobacco and Smoke-Free Campus website.

Am I required to give employees who smoke extra break time so they can leave campus to smoke or use tobacco products?

No. Employees are entitled to certain break periods outlined in their respective collective agreement, or the Employment Standards Act, as applicable, and smokers and tobacco-users are not entitled to additional break time.

At the discretion of the manager, release from work hours may be given to participate in McMaster-sponsored smoking cessation support workshops. For further inquiries please contact Employee/Labour Relations.

What will happen if someone smokes or uses tobacco while on McMaster property?

Smoking is prohibited while on McMaster property. There will be phased-in enforcement of the tobacco and smoke-free designation beginning in January. For the first months, anyone found in contravention of the tobacco and smoke-free campus will be asked to refrain from smoking or using tobacco and will be referred to a smoking cessation program or given access to supports and resources. Future enforcement will include follow-up by Security Services through Human Resources, Provost or Student Affairs as appropriate, or issuance of a University violation notice.

Who do I contact if I have questions or feedback about the tobacco and smoke-free campus initiative?

Prior to implementation of the policy, general questions and feedback about the initiative may be directed to  For concerns related to compliance issues, please contact Security Services at ext. 24281 and for concerns related to signage or smoking-related refuse, contact Facility Services at ext. 24740.

What do I do if I see someone smoking on campus?

Hopefully everyone will recognize and respect the goals of this initiative but during the implementation, there is expected to be a learning period while community members learn about the changes implemented.  The best initial approach is a direct, courteous reminder to the person and a request to refrain from smoking on campus. If there is a persistent problem, or you are uncomfortable approaching the situation, contact Security Services at ext. 24281.

How were the needs and perspectives of diverse groups on campus considered?

Many actions were taken to ensure as many groups as possible were represented during the planning and implementation processes, and to provide a mechanism for groups to voice their ideas and concerns.  Between Spring and Fall of 2017, meetings were held with many campus and community partners; including different official university committees and groups, registered student clubs, various student and employee union groups, university leaders and community stakeholders. These meetings:

  • Informed members of the campus community about how the decision to become tobacco and smoke-free occurred
  • Provided information about the implementation process; and
  • Solicited input to help make the process as collaborative as possible

Were designated outdoor smoking areas considered?

Yes, the University considered designated outdoor smoking areas during the consultative process to design the policy. The goal of the tobacco and smoke-free campus is to provide a healthier environment for all students, faculty, staff and visitors and to promote and encourage health and wellbeing.

During this discussion, McMaster experts shared findings that venues with designated smoking areas expose the community to markedly higher second-hand smoke exposures..

A study from Stanford University finds that designated smoking areas with multiple people smoking have toxic air levels equal to smoking indoors. Even brief exposure to smoke outside can exacerbate symptoms among those who suffer from heart disease, asthma, allergies, and bronchitis. Further, designated smoking areas create a social space for those who smoke or use tobacco products, and can be a trigger for those trying to reduce or quit smoking. Designated smoking areas also lead to confusion around where smoking is permitted.

Ontario’s hospitals and many other public outdoor spaces like parks are already 100% smoke-free.

How will McMaster support community members that use smoking as a coping mechanism?

The University understands this is a significant change to campus and the transition can be challenging. That’s why there is a thoughtful and inclusive plan to provide supports and relaxed enforcement as the new smoke-free status is implemented.

Research shows that smoking tobacco is not a stress release, but in fact, increases stress levels.
Addiction to nicotine increases stress levels due to the constant need to smoke to avoid symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, including irritability, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, etc. Physiologically, nicotine activates a stress response (increased heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, etc.). Supports for those who smoke or use tobacco products will be a major focus of policy implementation, and will include cessation resources (e.g. free nicotine replacement therapy) as well as supports for healthier coping strategies to deal with anxiety or other wellness concerns.

What about the safety of McMaster community members who smoke and must go off-campus, especially at night?

McMaster prioritizes safety for all members of the community and encourages everyone to take steps to be safe. Nicotine medications such as the patch, gum, lozenges or nasal spray can be used to manage nicotine needs without leaving campus.

McMaster has a comprehensive community safety plan that includes a variety of measures to keep the campus safe. Anyone leaving campus to attend an event, go to a party or walk through the neighbourhood is reminded to follow basic safety measures. More information on campus safety can be found here.