By Rhia Perkins
It’s off to the cold outdoors for smokers at the University of Calgary after the Students’ Union closed the Black Lounge, a smoking room on the second floor of MacEwan Hall, Thurs., Aug. 31.
The Black Lounge, the last indoor smoking space on campus that is not part of a bar, was closed as part of the SU’s redevelopment and expansion of the MacEwan Student Centre.
"The decision to close the Black Lounge was made last year, or even earlier, when it was determined that the new bar/restaurant was going to go there," said SU Vice-president Finance Matt Lauzon.
While signs on the door of the lounge stated that it was due to close, no date was given and no replacement has been provided.
Director of Facilities and Operations for the SU Kelly Hutton gave patrons a 20 minute warning before closing and locking the doors for the last time.
"I’m disappointed that they closed the Black Lounge without any thought to some sort of replacement," said cigarette aficionado Ken Clarke, the last smoker to use the lounge. "I’m not looking forward at attempting to enjoy a cigarette in -30 degree weather."
Lauzon is sympathetic, but noted that the creation of a new space was not part of current redevelopment plans.
"There aren’t plans right now because everything is up in the air until we know exactly what things will cost," he said. "To bring a smoking room up to code would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. It hasn’t been looked at by [Student’s Legislative] Council, as we have no place to put it. Space is really tight."
The university has no plans to create an indoor smoking space either.
"I’m surprised that [the Black Lounge] lasted that long in its present form," said Director of Ancillary Services Peter Fraser. "There wouldn’t be plans by the University per se to create a new smoking space. Whether you support it or not, this is the way public buildings are going."
"I don’t think it’s just the SU [eliminating indoor smoking]," he said. "I think that’s the direction that society is going. I just came from Vancouver and everything there is all non-smoking."
Clarke sees the reduction of spaces for smokers as discrimination.
"I feel that smokers are treated as second-class citizens," he said. "Equal rights? Hardly."