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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Student Government

Cigarettes have uncertain future

Students showed up in force to last Wednesday’s Student Government Association meeting to protest an upcoming bill that will ban smoking on campus.

The 31 member group included both smokers and non-smokers.

About half of the students asked the senate to block the bill during the time allotted to student speeches.

The other half offered support in the form of applause from the back of the room.

The bill had not yet been submitted for review by the Senate, said Speaker of the Senate Reyes Ramirez.

UH student Michael McHugh argued that that wasn’t a reason for the students to leave the meeting without speaking.

“Students who go to this University reserve the right to address their grievances at a public forum,” McHugh said.

“Potentially their opinions and their voices can influence what happens in committee before the bill even makes it out.”

The students argued smoking was a right the school shouldn’t take away.

“I know it’s a lifestyle choice,” McHugh said. “And it’s a personal choice. I just don’t know why we need to ban smoking. It’s telling some of our students who pay tuition, ‘you can’t do this.’

“I think it’s better to enforce existing code; right now we have people that smoke in the UC, so that isn’t being enforced. If we can’t enforce it in the UC, how can we enforce it everywhere on campus?”

According to students, smoking provides a sense of community.

Students would end up smoking in the dorms rather than outside in designated areas, and students who are bothered by the smoke should seek out less serious solutions, according to speakers.

After they had finished speaking, most of the students left the meeting without waiting to hear the senators’ response.

“No matter how much I hate smoking, I respect your right to do it. What’s disappointing to me (is) 90 percent of you will leave thinking that you weren’t heard,” Senator Melanie Pang said later in the meeting.

“I just want you to know that we are trying our best to represent you, but just as much as you want your voice to be heard, we want our voices to be heard too.”

Engineering Senator Stuhr also encouraged students to stick around for the meetings.

“To the 30 people in the back of the room, thanks for coming and voicing your opinion, but stick around so we can talk back with you,” he said.

“There may be other things going on here that concern you.”

It may be too early to judge what the constituents think about the bill, though.

“I’ve got four weeks to figure that out,” Stuhr said.

“You can’t base your vote on the students that show up at a meeting, and you can’t base your vote on what you think personally.

“I vote based on what my constituents say; if I don’t have a constituent’s opinion, then I generally abstain from the vote,” he said.

The next SGA meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the UC Cougar Den.

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