Student Smoking at Phillips Academy Popular Throughout School’s History

Although the ban on student tobacco smoking at the conclusion of the 1985-1986 school year greatly reduced the number of student smokers at Andover, School Physician Dr. Richard Keller believes that smoking still exists as a significant underground activity on campus. Although about 30 percent of American high school students smoke tobacco regularly, Dr. Keller estimates that that number is about 15 to 20 percent at Andover. Massachusetts state law says that it is illegal to sell or give cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18. It is also illegal for minors to purchase cigarettes from a vending machine. However, no Massachusetts law explicitly bans minors from smoking. One student who smokes about half a pack of cigarettes a day said, “The stress at this school is so bad that sometimes a cigarette can really help you relax. While it’s a fire hazard I think that if students are careful nothing too bad can happen. I mean, if students want to smoke, they’ll find a way to do so.” Another student smoker said, “Smoking is something that a lot of high school students do, and while I know how harmful it is, it’s not illegal to smoke, only to buy cigarettes. Andover students should be allowed to make that choice themselves. The hardest part is finding a place to smoke.” The Blue Book prohibits “smoking in, on, or in close proximity to any academy building or repeated use of tobacco products.” If found smoking under these prohibited circumstances, the student would face a DC and possible probation. Students caught smoking in downtown Andover or off campus receive a dean’s reprimand or censure. Any student caught smoking is required to meet with School Physician Richard Keller in the Isham Health Center for counseling as he or she attempts to quit. Dr. Keller also stressed the risks of starting to smoke in high school. He said, “If as a teen you can force yourself to tolerate smoking two complete cigarettes, the odds are that you’ll become a regular smoker.” The issue of student smoking at Andover was first addressed in May of 1882, when Headmaster Cecil P. Bancroft sent a letter to parents asking for their input on the matter. In the letter, Mr. Bancroft wrote, “If any effort is made to suppress by school authority a practice working so much mischief with boys, and which yet is to many boys so attractive, we feel that the co-operation and support of parents is first of all to be sought.” In 1912, The Phillipian reported that the Student Union, located in the basement of what is today the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology, would be opened as a student smoking lounge. The smoking lounge moved to Commons in 1934 and its use was confined to Seniors. This measure reduced tobacco use at Andover for the next several decades. However, smoking resurfaced at Andover in the early 1970s as a common practice among students. A poll of the class of 1971 found that 53 percent of students smoked during their Senior year. In 1972 the Blue Book Revision Committee suggested that Uppers be permitted to smoke as well. Committee chair John Lux told The Phillipian, “The committee recommended to the faculty that smoking be allowed for Uppers and Seniors because many thought that smoking got in the way of the mutual trust and respect between students and faculty members.” A 1972 Phillipian editorial presented the need for a revised smoking policy, saying, “PA’s present cigarette smoking rule apparently fails to prevent the student body from smoking while at the same time it creates a disrespect for rules and it increases fire hazards involved in smoking.” Therefore, in 1973 students who wished to smoke were required to first obtain parental permission, then attend three required smoking education classes held during the first week of school. Three hundred and twenty-five students received permission from their parents, 200 of these students completed the course, and of this group, 175-180 became “certified smokers” who exercised this privilege. The next year smoking regulations were codified under a Blue Book rule that read, “Smoking may be done only in a student’s own dormitory room or in the areas approved by a Cluster Dean.” Students who wished to smoke in their rooms were required to have a fire extinguisher on hand as well as a “substantial” ashtray. Biology Department Chair Marc Koolen, who ran the smoking education program for many years, said, “The long and short of it was that it wasn’t very successful – the kids still smoked.” After a number of years the fire codes once again became a concern, and smoking in student rooms was prohibited. According to Mr. Koolen, certain areas on campus, such as the back of Samuel Phillips Hall, became “outdoor smoking rooms.” Due to a growing awareness of the health risks of smoking, as well as two dorm fires caused by cigarettes, the faculty voted overwhelmingly to ban student smoking altogether in June 1986. Though the Student Council voted unanimously against smoking in dorm rooms, few members advocated a complete ban. Thus, the administration agreed to view the 1986 -1987 school year as a transitional year to allow students to quit smoking and become accustomed to the new rules. In the spring term, the Dean of Students at the time, ’Cilla Bonney-Smith, trained with the American Lung Association to begin a “Smoke-Enders” group to help PA student smokers quit the habit before the complete ban the following year. Current Chair of the English Department Jonathan Stableford, a Cluster dean in 1986, wrote to students’ families, notifying them of the ban and encouraging them to help their children overcome their nicotine addictions. Towards the end of the 1987 spring term, students objected to the ban on the grounds of a loss of freedom and concern over potential disciplinary action. In response to the students’ protests, the deans agreed to create a special network of discipline and counseling for smoking. In a summary of the faculty decision, Ms. Bonney-Smith and Mr. Stableford classified the system as “firm and humane enforcement.” They continued, “In the long run the students will decide these matters for themselves, but we believe that at his point in their lives and in the school context it is our responsibility to proceed with the smoking ban.”