Smoking area sign in one of the smoking areas in the American University in Dubai on March 4 2020. Mais Othman.

Should Smoking Be Banned on AUD Campus?

Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have recently temporarily banned shisha from their cities’ coffee shops for the next two weeks as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus. To clarify one of the reasons behind this ban, shisha is usually shared between multiple people, and this may pose a risk for intensifying the spread of the virus since coronavirus is known to enter and affect the lungs by causing pneumonia in patients.

However, similar to the sharing of shisha in cafes, smoking areas in universities don’t only allow for cigarettes to be smoked, but also e-cigarettes and medwakh pipes to be shared between people on campus, making such social settings, where many people gather, high-risk spaces for the spread of coronavirus.

This is one major reason why I believe that AUD’s smoking areas should be removed as soon as students get back to university in early April. In fact, I believe that the removal of these areas should be one of the first precautionary measures that the university takes to ensure the safety and health of the campus.

Another reason is that these areas greatly facilitate the unhealthy habit of smoking among many young adults, and smoking is known to generally weaken the lungs’ ability to fight off pneumonia caused by the virus. In other words, even if the patient is younger in age and has a strong immune system, if he or she is a smoker, then fighting off the virus may be more difficult than in the case of a young non-smoking patient.

In short, the removal of campus smoking areas will not only reduce the risk of the spread of the virus for now but could also promote a healthier campus in the long-term, should these areas be removed permanently. 

Waleed Otaibi, a 24-year-old Jordanian AUD student, is a smoker who disagrees with this idea and finds that the benefits of AUD’s smoking areas outweigh the negatives. 

“You’re dealing with adults, who range from 18 to 20 years old, and some may even be older, so you can’t tell them what to do, and what not to do,” says Otaibi in an interview. “Smoking areas are solutions to a problem. They keep the campus clean by having certain concentrated areas where cigarette buds and ash can be easily cleaned.”

Otaibi adds that he’s one of the several students who have been advocating for the addition of an indoor smoking area as protection for students from Dubai’s summer heat for seven years now. He believes that smoking areas shouldn’t be closed because students would smoke either way and can even smoke e-cigarettes in classrooms and bathrooms without being detected.

All in all, such smoking areas, similar to coffee shops, are actually seen as social settings, where many students I personally know skip classes to gather with their groups of friends to play cards, drink energy drinks, and chain-smoke. Subsequently, I believe that removing these smoking areas will decrease such habits within the campus, and help AUD attain a healthier campus not only in light of the coronavirus outbreak but also in the longer run.

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