Banning smoking on campus just alienates smokers
The recent tobacco ban on campus stems from good intentions.
Since 2012, a task force of UH students, staff and faculty had pushed toward a “tobacco-free campus.” The policy does “not require faculty, staff and students to quit using tobacco products, but does expect the policy to be adhered to by all individuals on university property.”
According to a news release from Floyd Robinson, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs – Health and Wellness, the ban came from “our social responsibility to promote the health, wellbeing and safety of UH students, faculty, staff and visitors.”
However, this pursuit of the health of the entire campus does come at the expense of choice for individual smokers.
Designated smoking areas were established as part of a gradual “effort to phase in the tobacco free environment,” said Robinson.
The areas weren’t designed to be a permanent presence but rather a fleeting step of a transitory process.
The recent removal of the areas would inconvenience an essential right of smoking on campus.
Although anti-smoking organizations can preach about the harmful effects of tobacco, smokers tend to know what they are getting into when they light a cigarette. They know about the risk of lung cancer.
They likely were warned about the negative effects, but they know it’s their life. To them, smoking is a preference. For some, it’s a means of stress-reduction and a break after a hard day of classes.
In the past year, the idea of designated smoking areas granted some productivity. Even if the execution wasn’t perfect.
“Maybe they (could have) planned the areas better. Areas I’ve seen were in the middle of crosswalks (where non-smokers often pass),” said former smoker Kevin Kendrick, a media production senior.
Overall, it did present compromise. “The areas were like a peace treaty that was really well-respected by smokers.”
Overall (even if imperfectly), the areas sanctioned a degree of courtesy toward the health of non-smokers. Smokers could hang around these areas and responsibly minimize smoke for those who do not wish to be exposed to second-hand air.
Kendrick further suggested that campus smokers would be deprived of their safe area for a smoke. “Taking away the designated areas means that people are going to be smoking elsewhere… areas not heavy on traffic on campus. No one wants to walk off campus to smoke.”
UH does a good job accommodating those who want to quit, such as providing the availability of tobacco-cessation resources. The notion of quitting tobacco, however, should be treated as a strong recommendation rather than mandatory implementation over the overall smoking population at UH.
People are going to smoke whether the school wants them to or not. Penalizing people for a lifestyle choice is not the answer.
Carol Cao is a creative writing and media production senior and may be reached [email protected]