Tobacco-free policy disputed

Oswego State’s campus is now tobacco free, but the so-called policy is too weak to make any real change happen in the near future.

The policy relies on students to police their peers as they go about their day. If you see someone smoking or chewing tobacco, Oswego State officials are essentially expecting students to tattle on one another.

Planning has been going on since 2011 when the Clean Air Steering Committee was created at Oswego State. The original plan was to enact a policy making the campus tobacco free by 2014, but that plan was pushed to this year when things fell behind schedule.

Currently, there are no real repercussions being discussed for those who do not comply with the tobacco-free policy. However, university officials claim that in the future there could be consequences for repeated offenders.

University Police is instructed to educate those seen smoking on campus to the details of the policy, but will not be writing tickets to those caught. Resident assistants are instructed to enforce the policy in and around residential areas of campus with documentation.

The tobacco-free campus policy falls in line with what SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher asked of all campuses within the statewide system to enact in 2012, but it is poorly planned. Shaming smokers to not light up on campus is not the right way to go about changing a societal issue, especially when there are no real known repercussions.

The campaign that coincided with the policy had a cigarette for a mascot and the brochures depict a cigarette being cut with scissors. This sets the idea that the campus is smoke free and not tobacco free, as it actually is. All cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, cigars, vapor pens with tobacco, hookahs, chewing tobacco, tobacco pipes and any other form used to ingest tobacco is banned on campus grounds.

This criticism of the policy does not mean smoking is a good activity to partake in. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 16 million people already have one disease as a result of smoking and nearly nine out of every 10 lung cancers are caused by smoking. Smokeless tobacco is just as harmful with 28 carcinogens, according to the HHS. Chewing tobacco is also known to cause oral cancer.

A real plan that includes enforcement is necessary to be successful at Oswego State. As of now, the policy relies on the already declining rate at which Americans are smoking. The number of smokers in the U.S. has declined from 42 percent in 1964 to 18 percent in 2014, according to the HHS. Instead, the policy should actually hold students accountable if they break the new rule. Write tickets, have fines, just as if a student parked in the wrong parking lot.

The tobacco-free campus policy certainly is not going anywhere anytime soon, but it should be revisited in the immediate future. Having the label as a tobacco-free campus is not the same as actually being tobacco free.