New Policy Targets Smokers

For most people, Saran Wrap is used to keep food fresh, but for Lucius Chiaraviglio ’86, the plastic covering was part of a perennial survival tactic during his time at Harvard.

The former Currier House resident, who is allergic to the toxins in cigarettes, used to cover the exhaust pipes in his bathroom with Saran Wrap to reduce the smoke filtering in from neighboring rooms.

“I got gassed when I was in Currier,” he said almost bitterly.

But just before graduating, Chiaraviglio enjoyed a reprieve from his health concerns. It came in the form of a ban on smoking in public places, passed by the City of Cambridge in February of 1987.

Harvard was tasked with complying with the ordinance, and between signs and house newsletters, administrative meetings and conversations between House Masters, smoking was restricted in many indoor common spaces.


Despite all the regulations, the campus smoking culture did not disappear.

“It was kind of cool back then,” said Salvador A. Litvak ’87, a rower in Adams House who spent hours in the dining hall eating and talking with his teammates.

“If you go to look at’ll see all the hip people smoke,” added Alice Wolf, a member of the City Council in 1987.

When Chiaraviglio fought to ban smoking in the Houses even before the city-wide ordinance, he was impeded by the “virulent” members of his House Council.

“It seemed like an awful lot of people considered it a civil right to smoke but they didn’t consider it a civil right to breathe clean air,” he said.

Even administrators were nervous about the effects of a ban. When it was mandated in 1987, Mohan D. Boodram, a resident tutor in Currier House at the time, said he and his colleagues were worried that those with severe sensitivity to smoke would use the ordinance to complain straight to the city—rather than the College—about smoke escaping into hallways from private rooms.

“We were really trying to think about every possible contingency,” he said.

However the new restrictions did not entirely change students’ actions. Despite the changes, students probably continued to smoke where they were not allowed, according to Donald H. Pfister, master of Kirkland House in 1987.