Campus smoking ban misses point

Smoking elicits mixed feelings from people. Some hate smoking because lung cancer claimed a loved one, they hate the smell or they think that it’s a disgusting habit. Others enjoy smoking because it allows them to escape from the world if only for the duration of the cigarette; it might make them nostalgic for that one time they had an epic conversation with a stranger while outside smoking a cigarette. Yet, there are still others who experience frustration because they can’t break the habit even if they wanted to.

As an on-and-off smoker who tries to understand both sides of controversy regarding smoking, what I don’t understand is the recent push to ban smoking on the Oswego State campus. I feel that the school is only doing this because so many places in New York State are becoming smoke-free, including a number of universities. The ban, in my opinion, simply represents the school administration’s continual quest to keep up with the new popular ideas of sustainability, “going green” and all things healthy. I don’t have anything against these ideas, but I do have something against our university blindly following what is considered “cool,” especially if it involves putting strict restrictions on a habit possessed by a good amount of Oswego State students and faculty without giving them a say or alternative options.

According to New York State Department of Health’s “Smoking Cessation in New York,” 26 percent of New York’s young adults smoke and over 40 percent of smokers in New York smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day. If the government made a law that demanded that all smokers have to quit, this action would most likely result in a protest of monumental proportions. Even those who are opposed to smoking would probably agree that the government doesn’t have the right to dictate whether or not a person has the right to smoke cigarettes, just like they don’t have the right to dictate whether or not a person has the right to drink alcohol. If demanding something like that directly would be considered wrong by most, why would doing the same things indirectly be considered okay?

If the Oswego State campus is to be completely smoke-free by January 2014, I would like to see how they expect students and faculty who do smoke to deal with the fact that in order to have one of their five to 20 or so daily cigarettes, the smokers will have to walk off campus. In some areas this is easy, but it will be more difficult for people living in areas on campus far from town, since in order to smoke they would have to walk anywhere from 10-15 minutes in order to have that one cigarette.

If this ban’s goal really is to make people quit smoking by making it inconvenient, if not nearly impossible for smokers to smoke, I think it may partially succeed in accomplishing that goal by eliminating the smokers who can’t be bothered to walk that far. As for the others, I know from experience that if a person wants to smoke, they will find a way.

Setting aside that this ban takes away individual choice, the biggest problem I have with this initiative to ban smoking is that I doubt that they will enforce it. While I disagree with the ban, I think that if you’re going to do something, do it well. According to the Oswego State smoking policy, which relies on individuals’ thoughtfulness and cooperation, smoking isn’t allowed within a minimum of 20 feet from doorways, loading docks and air intakes. The policy also states that it is everyone’s responsibility to observe the policy and remind others of it. This isn’t very pro-active enforcement, and I have never seen anyone smoking closer than 20 feet from a building be reprimanded or even addressed on the basis of this policy.

If this is Oswego State’s current attempt at preventing second-hand smoke and encouraging smokers to quit, I can’t see how making the ban more onerous will be more effective, or result in more stringent enforcement. This smoking ban, if actually enforced, will definitely be successful, if success means making regular smokers miserable, potentially late to class and more frozen than others during the Oswego winters.

2 thoughts on “Campus smoking ban misses point

  1. As our culture evolves, Americans are learning to live cleaner, more sanitary and healthy lives. This applies most especially to social mores and respect for each other. Just two centuries ago it was assumed that you had a “right” to pull down your pants in public to discharge bodily wastes as people still do in India and Brazil. Today, many people still think it is acceptable to discharge wastes from nose or mouth in public places. Things are changing. You seldom today see public spitting. Soon all addicts who feel driven to surrender to their “need” for a cigarette will learn that the rest of us do not wish to smell their odor, or to watch these losers on their downward path of self-degradation.

  2. @Nathan Morris

    Assuming your post wasn’t a joke, I have to say that your elitist attitude about social norms is both offensive and reactionary. There are plenty of things that some people find offensive, such as gay marriage or drinking alcohol. I would not say that it is the socially progressive thing to do to ban things that you personally don’t like. Do you think gay marriage and alcohol should be banned as well? Alcohol is the better of the two examples, since alcohol is also something that can negatively affect somebodies health. Do you think prohibition was a good thing? Where do you draw the arbitrary line between what you personally think is socially acceptable, and what others think is socially acceptable?

    When it comes to smoking on campus, I would say that SUNY Oswego has the right to ban anything they want on campus, provided that students are aware of the ban before choosing SUNY Oswego as their college. Your post however seems to imply that you feel that smoking should be banned universally, in the same way that defecating in a public place should be banned. I am not a cultural relativist by any stretch, but I am also not some sort of cultural elitist who preaches about what people can and can’t put in their own bodies on their own accord.

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