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.