LINGUIST List 8.1429

Mon Oct 6 1997

FYI: Smoking at conferences

Editor for this issue: Brett Churchill <>


  1. Richard Sproat, Smoking at conferences

Message 1: Smoking at conferences

Date: Sun, 5 Oct 1997 14:43:17 -0400 (EDT)
From: Richard Sproat <>
Subject: Smoking at conferences

I just returned from EUROSPEECH 97, in Rhodes, Greece. As is typical
of most conferences that I have been to outside the United States and
Canada, I was constantly inundated with cigarette smoke during the
coffee breaks and in general in all of the public areas outside the
lecture halls. Greece has virtually no legal restrictions on people
smoking in public areas, and smokers, left to their own devices, will
tend to distribute themselves so as to blanket the local airmass with
a more or less uniform cloud of smoke. After a couple of days of
this, I started to feel ill, with a set of cold-like symptoms mixed
with slight nausea that I know to be related to extended exposure to
smoke. This has happened enough times now that I am beginning to
really resent being put into this uncomfortable situation whenever I
need to go to a conference in a country that has no policies on
smoking in public places.

There is obviously nothing that can be done to change the social
policies of the various countries in which conferences might be held:
one can only hope that they will change in time. But what *can* be
done is for sponsoring organizations -- in the case of EUROSPEECH, the
organization is the European Speech Communication Association (ESCA)
- to impose their own smoking policies during the meeting. ESCA
rented an entire conference facility within the Rodos Palace Hotel,
and it could have set up designated areas within the public areas of
the conference facility for the use of people who feel they must
smoke. That way those of us who had wanted to get as far away from
smoke as possible would have had a chance to do so, without being
forced to stay in the lecture halls, which fortunately at least *were*
off limits to smoking. (Note that setting up such areas would not
have required ESCA to actually police the area: "enforcement" could
have been left up to non-smokers, like myself, who would have asked
that people not smoke outside the designated areas. But as things
were, with no designated areas, I had no basis for asking someone to
go somewhere else to smoke.)

Here is a general suggestion: Groups that organize international
conferences should make a committment to setting up designated smoking
areas in the public spaces that they rent for conferences; one
possible implementation of this commitment would be an amendment to
the organization's constitution requiring this. (Relevant
organizations for linguistics, computational linguistics and speech
technology include ESCA, COLING, IEEE-ICASSP (International Conference
on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing), and ICSLP (International
Conference on Speech and Language Processing).)

I would be interested in hearing from people who share my views on
this issue, and who might have suggestions on how we might encourage
groups like ESCA to help make future events more pleasant for

Richard Sproat
Language Modeling Research Department
Multimedia Communications Research Laboratory
Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies 	| tel (908) 582-5296
700 Mountain Avenue, Room 2d-451 	| fax (908) 582-3306
Murray Hill, NJ 07974, USA	 	|
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