Smokers irk small business owners

by Beacon Staff • November 15, 2006

Area business owners have found the rule to be kind of a drag.

John Beresford, manager of Commonwealth Books, which adjoins Piano Row, said the smoke in front of his doorway has been a problem recently.,A rule restricting smoking within 25 feet of the Piano Row Residence Hall has forced those in need of a nicotine fix into the doorways and storefronts of local businesses.

Area business owners have found the rule to be kind of a drag.

John Beresford, manager of Commonwealth Books, which adjoins Piano Row, said the smoke in front of his doorway has been a problem recently.

"The administration shouldn't be imposing what they call a problem on other people," Beresford said.

Students interviewed said they had a hard time finding places to smoke without breaking the 25-foot rule or disturbing businesses.

Dan Foley, a junior film major, said the rule constituted a direct insult to local businesses.

"I think it's ridiculous that I can't smoke in front of the building that I live in," Foley said. "I pay a lot of money to live here and I should be able to smoke a cigarette."

Piano Row was commissioned as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building. Along with installing automatic-flush toilets to conserve water and large windows to encourage the use of natural light, Emerson College prohibits smoking outside of the building in order to meet a LEED provision for the management of Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS). Forcing people to move away from the building to smoke is intended to make the building's ventilation cleaner.

Ronald Ludman, dean of students, said the environment-friendly LEED specifications were part of the building's plan from the beginning. Earth Emerson was among the student organizations pushing for a green building, Ludman said.

Since the building's opening, the areas in front of Bavarian Antiques, the Steinway Piano Building, Troquet and Commonwealth Books have all become popular places for Emerson smokers. At M. Steinert and Sons, the displaced smokers have become a source of discussion.

"I think it's ridiculous that because it [Piano Row] is a Green building, we have to bear the brunt of students' behavior," said Marianne Jensen, an employee at Steinway.

These businesses have complained that the smoke saved from Emerson's ventilation system is getting into their own. According to Jenson, on warm days, the Steinway doors are sometimes left open to allow fresh air into the building, but often, smoke makes its way in as well.

"It's not so much for me that smoking is a problem, but if you have a large crowd in front of a business, then it prevents people from coming in," Beresford said. He also said he is worried Commonwealth Books will become an increasingly popular place to smoke as winter approaches because of the shelter its entrance provides.

"Our general approach is to ask and periodically remind community members not to smoke in front of building entrances so that people do not have to pass through second-hand smoke," Ludman said. "Managing this problem is more challenging than if we were in an enclosed campus where Emerson owned the land."

The smoking rule is enforced by Emerson-hired Securitas officers, public safety officers, resident assistants and residence directors, who ask students to move away from the building if they are seen smoking too close.

Some students agree with the general sentiment of neighboring businesses that the rule is unethical.

"In terms of how we can't smoke, I think it's ridiculous," said Piano Row resident Katie Beatty, a junior writing, literature and publishing major. "We have to go in front of the stores, which is unfair."