Tobacco sales banned on post-secondary campuses

(Originally posted on November 18, 2014)

By Clare Bonnyman

New provincial anti-smoking regulations ban the sale of tobacco products on post-secondary campuses. The legislation comes into effect in January, removing tobacco products from the shelves of campus retailers across Ontario.

For most Ottawa institutions, the regulation won’t change anything. Algonquin College and University of Ottawa removed tobacco products from campus retailers’ years ago, meanwhile Carleton University has not.

Of the Carleton retailers, no vendor overseen directly by the university sells tobacco products. However, retailers run by the student groups the Carleton University Student Association and Rideau River Residence Association, do.

“This is something that’s been coming for quite some time,” said CUSA Business Operations Manager Rod Castro. “We just never really knew what the time frame was.”

Castro oversees Henry’s convenience store on the Carleton University campus, a centrally located spot for students to pick up a snack, and where they used to be able to buy cigarettes.

Castro said that they are not the stores top-selling item, as “cigarettes are more of a traffic creating item, sort of like gas is at a gas station.”

However the legislation will have a significant financial effect.

“Cigarette sales is probably 20-25% of our total sales, and there really is no replacement for that type of revenue” said Castro.

“Literally I expect a drop in sales of about 20 or 25 percent, instantly.”

CUSA’s cigarette sales for the 2014-2015 school year were estimated at $53,000 in profit. As the legislation is only in effect for one of the three semesters, a profit-loss of approximately a third, or $17,666, could be predicted for CUSA.

Students forced to search off campus for a pack of smokes. 

New provincial legislation is going to make buying a package of cigarettes more different for students at Carleton University.
New provincial legislation is going to make buying a package of cigarettes more different for students at Carleton University.

Other institutions in Ontario have already implemented bans on the sale of tobacco products and even smoking on campuses, some leading up to the expected regulations.

“We’ve definitely been preparing for it,” said CUSA President Folarin Odunayo. “There were discussions when we first heard about the law coming about, and other situations on campuses across the country.”

But unlike other campuses, Odunayo and CUSA chose not to make a decision for the Carleton community.

“We can certainly encourage students to not smoke and inform and educate students about the health hazards of smoking, but I don’t really think it is in our position to ban things from the campus,” said Odunayo.

He said CUSA “can only provide the information, students are mature enough to make decisions on their own.”

CUSA welcomes initiatives onto campus to educate students about the hazards of smoking, like Leave The Pack Behind, a youth-oriented tobacco control program that has had a presence on campus throughout the fall.

International student Ivana Kolkovic came to Carleton from Serbia, and as a smoker says she is against the new regulations.

“I just feel that there are so many other things that are as dangerous as smoking,” said Kolkovic.

She says it is a personal choice whether or not to smoke.

“There are many issues around it,” she said. “People think that you smoke because you cannot cope with your problems and things like that, but I think that things are more complex.”

Odunayo says that unlike other Ottawa campuses that have more strict rules around smoking, CUSA didn’t feel that it was in any position to restrict students.

“You’ve got to ask yourself, is CUSA in the position to ban anything from campus?” he said. “We only have to provide a safe environment.”

Cassandra Leblonde, a second year English major who lives off campus, said she doesn’t know if she’d walk from campus to Bank Street to pick up a pack.

“Depends how much I wanted some smokes,” she said. “It’s a pretty big addiction.”


Facts and Figures about Tobacco on campus.
Facts and Figures about Tobacco on campus.

facts sourced from:

A 2004 study by Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada and a 2006 report by the University of Waterloo.

Voter turnout continues to fall: My piece in Centretown News

View the original story published on the Centretown News website here.

Friday November 14.

Somerset Ward’s voter turnout rate continued its decline in the October election, a problem forcing newly elected Catherine McKenney to confront the ward’s growing transient population.

The wide-open election race featured 11 candidates, with mainstay Diane Holmes retiring after years in municipal politics.

Average voter turnout this year was 39.82 per cent, putting Centretown just below the city average. Voter turnout across Ottawa has been in rapid decline since 2006, with rates plunging from 54 per cent to 40 and dropping.

Somerset Ward fell from 50 to 43 per cent from 2006 to 2010 and now to under 40 per cent in 2014.

Somerset was one of only two of the city’s 23 wards with 11 candidates, the highest number in this year’s election.

The diversity of urban Centretown are one explanation for declining voter turnout.

Carleton University political sciencist Conrad Winn suggests voter turnout is directly related to how “consequential” an election seems. When individuals feel that all the options on the ballot offer them the same thing, they are not as likely to vote than if candidates vary in platforms, he says.

“There aren’t a lot of radical things that politicians at any level of government can do,” says Winn. “When you look at where turnout is high, it’s because the election is consequential. Voter turnout is lowest at the local level because the consequences are smallest.”

Somerset’s young population, 40 per cent of which is between the ages of 15 and 29, may also explain the result.

Winn says low voter turnout is a result of the growing “social youth” demographic, a group finding less motivation to engage in municipal politics.

“People are staying young longer and longer. They’re getting married really late, they’re having children really late,” he says. “They don’t have the same pressing reasons to follow municipal politics and vote.”

These pressing reasons, Winn suggests, can include having a child, owning property or land, or having a long-term job. The “social youth” demographic is waiting longer before settling down and in doing so prolongs their period of non-committal involvement with local politics.

“People aren’t going to vote when they don’t understand what’s happening,” he says. “Municipal and ward politics are hard to understand unless you have lived in that ward for a long time.”