University should aim to reduce, not restrict, smoking

University+should+aim+to+reduce%2C+not+restrict%2C+smoking

As March hums along, the University now enters its second full month of the spring semester. We are a few months into the new, campus-wide smoking ban that took effect on Jan. 1 of this year, in which the University seems to be confident in upholding its policy.

However, I have been keen to observe how relatively loose this non-smoking policy has been addressed recently, even though I am aware it is only in the beginning stages of implementation. Yet I, almost daily, witness smokers on campus-owned property, particularly around the Quad.

To be clear, although I am not personally a smoker, I stand firm in my views that the University should not restrict the personal, legal choices of individuals — I say to each their own. But if the University wants to address this topic, there are better ways to do it.

And because I have seen people getting away with smoking on campus with no immediate or overt outcries by fellow pedestrians, then the policy seems illegitimate, especially because one of its main priorities is to limit secondhand smoke.

I acknowledge this policy is well in effect, but at this point it shows very little enforcement because all we have are signs and volunteer-based student ambassadors who are trained to impose the smoking ban.

The student ambassadors serve to approach smokers on campus property and make them aware of the policy, provide a smoke-free policy card and point them to a smoke-free campus map, which hardly seems productive at all. Simply informing people about a policy, which they may already be aware of, might not stop them from smoking in areas where they’re technically not allowed to. 

This month, however, enforcement policies are supposed to be reevaluated and the effectiveness of the policy will be determined thus far. 

Because of this timing, I suggest that the University reconsiders the smoking ban altogether and take a different approach. The ban seems difficult to patrol in the first place, and as I said before, preventing where people smoke doesn’t prevent them from continuing their habit, hence why this is not the most practical solution, especially if there is the overarching concern of secondhand smoke.

The ban is not solving a problem as much as it is moving it somewhere else.

In light of Unofficial, and basically any other night of the week on campus, I would argue that smoking isn’t even a beneficial point of emphasis because drinking has just as many, if not more, harmful effects to campus life and we approach this subject very differently.

Drinking is comparable to smoking in that it is something that is legal to citizens of a particular age and, like cigarettes, alcohol has harmful effects. However, alcohol comes with a slew of other legal and social issues that come with drinking underage, as well as potential injuries and public disturbances that occur far too often and negatively impact more than just the person who is consuming alcohol.

During Unofficial alone, 271 “Notices to Appear” were issued by police, PRO Ambulance had 40 calls for service with 27 transports, among a large number of other reports and arrests.

Although, yes, Unofficial is notoriously a day of perpetual alcohol-related reports at the University, I use it merely as a way to emphasize harmful alcohol-related issues that exist here — though not in as high of a frequency as this particular day.

Yet despite these numbers and examples, we don’t simply ban alcohol from campus, nor do we take any drastic measures to stop people from drinking. Granted, I am not saying that we divert our attention away from banning smoking and over to campus alcohol prohibition, but am using it as a point of comparison.

Overconsumption of alcohol and underage drinking are issues that always seem to exist and there is really no way to eliminate them entirely, but rather methods to address them in more preventative ways, as we do through programs such as ACE IT.

The same can be said for smoking because there will always be people with the habit or who will smoke in places they are not supposed to.

While I understand the basis of this ban is because of concerns over secondhand smoke, the only way to correctly address this is by digging to the root of the problem and amplifying smoking cessation resources on campus, not just displacing smokers to arbitrary off-campus areas. Providing and promoting these resources to curb smoking habits should ultimately be the extent of interference in promoting healthier personal choices.

What it comes down to is that, like drinking, smoking comes with its wide array of harmful effects, and, like drinking, if the issue cannot reasonably be eradicated from campus, then having a policy entirely eliminating it may not be the best answer.

Nicki is a junior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @NickiHalenza.