Rasberry: The punitive effects of the new “tobacco-free”

If you haven’t heard of the tobacco-free referendum that was voted upon by the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) on March 29, 2016, you should be at least be aware of the impacts of this policy. The proposed policy is a punitive, insensitive showpiece of legislation. Not only does the policy force students to quit smoking by taking away designated smoking areas and making smoking anywhere on campus punishable, the policy bans some forms of addiction therapy items, most notably e-cigarettes.

Such extremes on students, faculty and staff will not produce any noteworthy results. Smoking is an addiction and as such, the person in question who smokes must make a conscious decision to quit; you just can’t force people to change. The current policy, which still allows designated smoking areas, is not enforced as of now, so what reason do people have to enforce the new policy if the old one wasn’t even addressed by the authorities who could clearly see people smoking outside of these designated areas?

One of the main problems with the new policy is the fact that it eliminates the designated smoking areas on campus. The current policy allows them, but even these areas are not thought through well. Smokers and nonsmokers alike share issues with the placement of these areas. While nonsmokers worry about encountering secondhand smoke, smokers have to decide to either follow the rules and try to stay within smoking areas or worry about spreading secondhand smoke; many of these designated areas are simply near popular walkways. In addition, these areas are unkind towards smokers; most, if not all, have no protection against the elements and no bins to throw their cigarette butts away in.

This leads to unhappy smokers who would rather break the rules and smoke somewhere under a roof instead of standing out in the freezing cold or rain, and smokers who cannot easily dispose of their garbage, leading to littered cigarette butts all over campus. A more effective solution is to throw out the new policy, install covered designated smoking areas away from popular walkways with bins for cigarette butts and have patrolling officers better enforce the designated smoking areas. This is much kinder and understanding to the smokers than a zero-tolerance policy that eliminates all designated smoking areas on campus and leads to discontent.

The other major issue with this new policy is that while it understandably wants to reduce the health issues related to secondhand smoke and smoking in general, it bans the use of e-cigarettes, one of the most popular forms of nicotine replacement. E-cigarettes are also popular because they allow the person quitting the familiar feel of a cigarette. If a person has smoked for a long period of time, smoking is not an addiction at that point, it is a full-blown habit. Recreating that familiarity while removing the tobacco aspect of the product is incredibly helpful and better-suited for people who want to quit but cannot simply switch to gum or patches. The fact that the policy proposes e-cigarettes be banned is completely ignorant of the fact that not all smokers can use the same products and successfully quit. Instead, the university should allow e-cigarettes to be offered in their free eight-week program for quitting smoking and allow e-cigarettes to be used on campus.

The new policy, which only has the Board of Trustees to pass through to officially be instated, is incredibly unaware of human nature and smokers’ needs. We shouldn’t implement an approach that scares people with zero-tolerance and create a prohibition-esque atmosphere. We should pay attention to what actual smokers have to say about the issues with smoking on campus; people will not quit smoking if they do not want to. The best thing we can do is try to accommodate covered areas for smokers that best prevent secondhand smoke from travelling to popular areas and walkways and allow e-cigarettes, which are tobacco-free, to be used on campus.

Kate Rasberry is a second-year student.