Smoke baby, smoke?

University admits tobacco company wrong for career fair and conflicts with healthy environment

U of W registrar Colin Russell admits Imperial Tobacco’s participation at the campus career fair was a mistake. Mark Reimer

The University of Winnipeg admitted it made a mistake when it allowed representatives from a tobacco company to take part in its recent career fair.

“We want to promote a healthy campus environment,” said Colin Russell, registrar at the U of W. “They are not the appropriate company to express that.”

Russell said that the U of W has never included tobacco companies in its career fair.

Yet in this year’s fair, held on Jan. 28 at the Duckworth Centre, Imperial Tobacco was allowed to have recruiting officers on campus.

The U of W has a smoking ban in effect on all campus property.

Murray Gibson, executive director of the Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance, said it is unfortunate the tobacco giant was allowed to have a platform at the university.

“They are trying to appear as a legitimate business,” Gibson said. “But their product kills.”

Gibson said due to their lethal nature, tobacco should not be treated as a normal product. As the government does not allow tobacco companies to advertise or display their products, they should not have the freedom to recruit employees at universities.

But Ashley Buleziuk, a smoker, thinks students should have the freedom to choose.

“It’s hypocritical if they didn’t allow them,” said the third-year English student.

“An important thing about university is educating yourself and making informed decisions,” Buleziuk said. “It’s not realistic to think they (tobacco companies) would go away.”

Amanda Snell, a fourth-year criminal justice and sociology major, who also smokes, feels differently.

“I don’t really agree that the university should advertise something like that,” Snell said.

Russell explained the person who normally organizes the fair was away on maternity leave, so the university contracted out someone to perform those duties.

“We should have a written policy in place for these matters,” Russell said.

The university will work on such a policy for next year, he said.

Typically companies approach the university to participate in the career fair, which costs them $250. Companies are admitted on a case-by-case basis.

Russell said a link to Imperial Tobacco’s website was removed from the university’s career fair website.

Efforts to reach Imperial Tobacco were not successful by press time.

Published in Volume 63, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 12, 2009)

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