Goldberg: A tobacco-free campus would be an embarrassment

Not the other way around

If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you? If a sundry of other schools wasted money on banning tobacco on campus entirely, should we? There are some members of our administration who think we should do just that. This month the Faculty Senate will vote on whether or not to throw their support behind a policy to ban cigarettes, chewing tobacco, electronic cigarettes and every other tobacco based product on campus. The proposal is not intended as a means of helping the student body, but rather motivated by a misplaced sense that lacking a tobacco-free policy is somehow an embarrassment to our university. Here are just a few of the reasons you should submit a statement to Secretary of the Faculty Senate Rebecca Weiss and ask the senate to not put their weight behind this policy.

Tobacco-Free won’t work

Simply put, banning tobacco on campus won’t remove tobacco from campus. If a student has a nicotine addiction, an expensive sign probably isn’t going to stop them from smoking, and it’s certainly not going to cause them to quit. In the 21st century, no one gets to college without already knowing that smoking is hazardous to health. Rather, smokers are more likely dispersed across campus, relocating temporarily if asked to “put it out” by security. If Case Western Reserve University manages to actually enforce the policy (hint: they won’t), then smokers will simply be able to smoke on sidewalks, which belong to the city rather than the university and where a campus policy of this sort cannot legally be applied.

Tobacco-Free especially hurts groups we should seek to make feel welcome

Who will face the biggest impact from a tobacco-free campus? The available statistics point towards international students and students from low-income backgrounds. Making life more uncomfortable for these students will only hurt the “culture of care” our university is in the process of building. Furthermore, discouraging university employees such as Bon Appétit workers and janitorial staff from smoking during their breaks is merely adding extra hassle to an already thankless job.
Tobacco-Free is inferior to current policy in every way
Smoking in buildings, or anywhere besides designated smoking zones, is already prohibited. Granted, it is quite possible the location of those designated smoking zones need re-evaluation. But those locations can be made so they are convenient enough to be actually used, while avoidable for those wishing to avoid secondhand smoke, either for personal health concerns or due to a health condition such as asthma. Scattering smokers or forcing them to the sidewalks will inevitably increase exposure to secondhand smoke. There are no benefits we can realistically expect out of Tobacco-Free that we are not already able to reap.

Tobacco-Free and cessation need not be tied

CWRU recently began introducing “cessation” programs to help students with a tobacco addiction quit. These programs were brought forth after Undergraduate Student Government responded not entirely favorably to the initial Tobacco-Free proposal (the fact that cessation programs were added as an afterthought speaks volumes to the true motivating factors behind the policy). Cessation programs are often given as a reason Tobacco-Free will be helpful to campus, and indeed giving assistance to those wishing to enjoy the health benefits of quitting is laudable. However we can easily implement these programs separately. If anything, Tobacco-Free will decrease attendance in cessation programs, as students might feel less comfortable disclosing their addiction to those who could point them in the direction of help.
Over the past several years, President Barbara R. Snyder has wasted too much time and resources, including the time of multiple well-paid staff members, trying to get this policy implemented, all due to some misplaced idea that the policy will reflect well on our university despite being doomed to failure. Hopefully the faculty senate will vote against endorsing Tobacco-Free, and thereby convince Snyder to put our university resources back into the programs that truly reflect well upon the university: those that make CWRU a better experience for all of its students.

Barry Goldberg is a fourth-year Biomedical Engineering major and history minor.