Puffing On Campus
College student smokers undeterred by lax and inconsistent regulations
"So even if the university is well aware of the fact that smoking exists in student residence halls, barring any preemptive or more aggressive measures, the school can do nothing but wait."
- Mr Leo Hung, Resident Coordinator of Y.P. Cai Hall at Bpatist University
Smoking is without a doubt banned on all university campuses throughout Hong Kong, but in reality rules can sometimes be circumvented with a combination of vigilant observation and clever manoeuvre.
Campus washrooms, among other potential smoking sites, have long been targeted by many college students as places to go to for a cigarette break.
Daniel Xu, an undergraduate at Hong Kong Baptist University, said that although the small sprinklers connected with pipes in a typical campus washroom were not part of the fire alarm system, they would spray water when a fire had been detected.
Daniel added that there are two other devices that smokers need to watch out for: a small ring-shaped heat detector on the wall and a smoke detector that will turn on the fire alarm control panel and activate notification appliances such as the strobe light and beeping horn once it detects any puffs of smoke in the air.
"If you smoke in the dorm, you have to cover the smoke detecting device up with something like a towel or pieces of paper," said Xu, noting that smoke detectors are installed in most university buildings.
But he is not always that cautious. Once he was caught smoking in a washroom located in the common study areas of the dormitory and he got 12 hall marks deducted.
In fact, there are only a few students being caught smoking on campus each year, which amounts to around three and that figure is similar to the situation in Poly. But actually this figure has much to do with the attitude of the administrations towards this issue and how they monitor the students.
Inconsistency in regulatory standards set and fire alarm systems installed by different local universities have rendered smoking bans obsolete.
Although indoor smoking is banned on most public premises under the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance, college student smokers sometimes do so at school campus simply out of convenience.
A number of students from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, City University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Shue Yan University have said that dorms are the best possible indoor places to smoke considering there there are few visitors.
Despite knowing that smoking is prohibited on campus, they tend to do so indoors when it is too cold or rainy outside, as they find it "pretty unreasonable" to go downstairs just for a cigarette, but will take a cigarette break outside when the when the weather is fine.
Regarding smoking in dorms, student smokers from the three aforesaid universities may be less likely to get caught because of the absence of separate smoking detectors in every room. Only a few of them can be found along the hallways where there are more visitors.
When asked about ways of monitoring smokers in halls, Mr. Leo Hung Chun-ying – resident coordinator of Cai Hall as well as a graduate of Baptist University –said there are three methods to fulfill this purpose. The first one is regular room checks carried out by hall tutors on every floor. The second is placed upon janitors who clean the bathrooms every Thursday. And the third one comes from the complaints given by fellow hall students.
But these methods seem hardly effective. According to the school policy of Baptist University, you have to be caught smoking on the spot in order to be convicted.
"Even if the university is well aware of the fact that such conduct exists in student residence halls, barring out any preemptive or more aggressive measures, the school can do nothing but wait," said Hung.
Mr. Villa Zhao said she often throws the butts into the bathroom bin. But that leaves her vulnerable for being discovered because the janitors clean the bathrooms every now and then. But it seems that those janitors never spill, so she takes the advantage of that.
Besides, she also flushes the butts. But since they are too light to flush, it normally takes her more than once to successfully flush them down and that, which is a huge waste of water. So she usually just leaves the butts in the toilet
Of course the obvious reason for being discreet is that, the behavior is strictly forbidden by the government and the universities. explains hall rules and regulations.
He said the main punishment is the deduction of hall admission marks, a system used to determine whether one is eligible for next year residence in the dormitory. Smoking will normally result in a deduction of 7 to 14 points, given that every resident has 16 points in total. If you reach a negative figure during your residence period, you will be expelled from the hall immediately.
Relevant studies have been done targeting Harvard University, Princeton University and some European colleges. However, Hong Kong has so far no detailed studies on smoking problem on university campuses.
Edited by James Zhang
Edited by Ruby Leung
《The Young Reporter》
The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.
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