Editor’s note: clearing the air

Tyler Hoffman, Editor-in-Chief

As the American Cancer Society prepares to mark its 37th annual Great American Smokeout on Nov. 15, Cleveland State University is keeping a different time in mind: September 2013. By this month, the entire CSU campus must be tobacco-free, as ordered by a policy approved on Nov. 7 by the university’s board of trustees.

According to The Plain Dealer on Nov. 7, the ban was created by university administrators and prohibits anyone on the campus from using any kind of tobacco – including the smokeless varieties. Parking lots, walkways, and athletic facilities are included in the policy.

CSU is not the first university to take this action, however. Effective Nov. 1, the Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) banned the use of tobacco on its campus, and the university has yet to report any problems with its enforcement.

The Plain Dealer notes that no-smoking signs are posted on the NEOMED campus in Rootstown, Ohio, and repeat offenders are subject to the same disciplinary actions used in other violation instances at the school.

Miami University and University of Toledo also employ smoking bans on their campuses, while nearby Kent State University is investigating the idea further.

Readers who commented on the online version of The Plain Dealer’s article mostly supported the decision, while one commenter noted that smoking remained a legal right in the nation and the ban would be tested during the weeks surrounding CSU’s final exams.

So in a world dominated by the need to keep up with the Joneses, it begs the question: should Case Western Reserve University enact a similar policy?

I am tempted to argue against employing such a ban at our private institution, especially since CWRU’s track record for enforcing new policies isn’t flawless. Take the posting policy for instance. What was initially a great idea to clean up campus clutter and address fire hazards quickly turned into a guessing game for students, who didn’t know what could be posted where and what consequences for ignoring the policy existed.

Also, one of the benefits of studying at a private institution is a sense of autonomy, for the government has somewhat limited control over what rules and regulations the school as a whole must follow. Following the path of state universities is a slippery slope for CWRU that could lead to losing a sense of this independence.

The negative effects of smoking – both on the person and those around them – cannot be ignored, however. Therefore, rather than employing a campus-wide ban like CSU, CWRU’s current policy should undergo stricter enforcement. All too often university smokers can be seen lighting up in “unapproved areas” close to residence halls and campus buildings.

As unappealing as some may consider it, tobacco use is not illegal. Thus, a balance needs to be struck between a student, staff, or faculty member’s right to use it and another person’s right to avoid it.