Smoking on exhibition?

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 06 November 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:1093
  1. Nakahara Shinji, lecturer,
  2. Masao Ichikawa, lecturer,
  3. Susumu Wakai, professor
  1. Department of International Community Health, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, Japan

    Walking in the Hongo Campus of the University of Tokyo, an exquisite garden landscaped by a feudal lord several hundred years ago, you pass through a dense grove beside a pond to encounter a group of statues of pioneers who contributed to the expansion of wisdom. The campus, being full of such commemorations and natural remains, along with its university museum, plays an important role in assembling and exhibiting materials to both researchers and society. Some materials are available only in this campus, increasing its prestige as a museum.

    It seems that the University of Tokyo is chasing additional honour in this respect. Recently, it has added an outdoor exhibition of material that, though not yet rare, is becoming increasing scarce in its natural habitat. So far, no other universities or institutes are following the University of Tokyo. It may be the only institute that preserves the material in the near future, and it will thus acquire worldwide fame due to its clear vision and foresight.

    The material is “smoking habit,” which is facing extinction because of efforts by public health bodies around the world. The “Smoking Preserve” is designated in front of the main entrance to the School of Health Science. In the past, people used to smoke wherever they liked in the building; then smoking was confined to a few designated areas; now the whole building has become smoke free. Consequently, it was transferred to outside the building.

    Here, we cannot but applaud the bold decision to choose the front entrance instead of one at the rear. This is the best place for an exhibition: students, researchers, staff, and visitors from all over the world can appreciate it whenever they enter the building. Seeing the exhibition, people in the tobacco-less future will say: “How could people have inhaled such disgusting smoke?”

    We insist that the university should maintain the Smoking Preserve forever against all kinds of claims and complaints, as is the case with smallpox virus preserved in a few institutes for vaccine production or research purposes. Once the habit disappears, we cannot restore or study it. Actually, the university seems to recognise its obligation, and every effort is made to make the Smoking Preserve comfortable: sofas have been installed, and soft drinks are available from a vending machine there. The preserve is an indispensable global asset, and the university should enjoy international fame, or is it shame?


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