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May 18, 2006

Smoking sites appear as rules are revised

Designated smoking areas are springing up on all three campuses, as the UW begins the process of adapting to the requirements of I-901, the initiative passed by the voters last November. The initiative amends the Washington State Clean Indoor Air Act of 1985, eliminating exceptions to smoking in workplaces such as restaurants and bars, and expanding the definition of “public place” to include 25 feet away from the entrances, air vents and operable windows of any public building.

In response to the new law, the University is working on revising its smoking rules under the Washington Administrative Code. According to Rebecca Deardorff, director of the Rules Coordination Office, when the Legislature enacts some statutes, the University must draft rules spelling out how it will comply with these, including matters related to use of facilities. The resulting rules become part of the University code.

Campus buildings have been smoke-free since 1985, but the University did not attempt to choose particular places for outdoor smoking. However, “I-901 says that smoking shall not be permitted in places of employment,” said Dave Leonard, Environmental Health and Safety manager for UW Tacoma and UW Bothell. “And given that people can be working anywhere on campus, even the 25 foot rule would impact people in places of employment.”

While it is working on new rules, therefore, the University has enacted emergency smoking rules that state:

“Smoking is prohibited in all University facilities, including but not limited to vehicles, inside all buildings owned or occupied by the University and/or used by the University’s faculty, staff or students and at any outside areas or locations.” Exceptions are:


  • Smoking may be permitted in University student housing in accordance with smoking regulations established for those facilities by the vice provost for student life.
  • Smoking may be permitted in specific designated outdoor locations approved by the director of Environmental Health and Safety in accordance with the new laws. Signage is placed to indicate the designated locations.

According to Leonard, who is heading up the effort to create the smoking areas, EH&S consulted with Facilities Services and with relevant building managers and heads of departments as it chose the sites. There will be about 50 sites scattered across the Seattle campus and about seven each at UW Tacoma and UW Bothell. Each will have an urn for cigarette ashes and butts and a freestanding sign saying “designated smoking area.”

Older urns — the heavy kind with cement bases, are being removed.

A map with the designated smoking areas marked can be found at http://www.ehs.washington.edu/pso/whatsnew.shtm#smoking. Leonard said that anyone who objects to the location of a smoking area should submit that complaint to EH&S. He said that some locations have already been changed after complaints were received.

Leonard also said that EH&S will be reviewing the location of these designated smoking sites with the health departments from King and Snohomish counties to assure the UW is in compliance with the new law.

While the smoking areas are going in, the University is continuing to work on permanent rules. A Smoking Rule Revision Task Force has been appointed and met for the second time this week. Today, a Preproposal Statement of Inquiry is being published (See Notices, page 11). According to Deardorff, this mandated statement invites interested parties to give input before a rule is written.

Once the task force has drafted rules, they will be published and comments invited. There will also be a hearing at which interested parties can testify. Depending on what happens at the hearing, the rules could go back to the task force for revision or they could be forwarded to the regents for adoption.

The emergency rules, dated Jan. 31, are good for 120 days and thus will shortly expire. Deardorff said they will be extended as long as necessary. “We don’t hold hearings in the summer because too many of the people affected by rules aren’t here,” she said.

She expects the task force to complete its work over the summer and hearings on all three campuses to be held in the fall.