A variety of input is needed when considering a decision that will potentially affect a sizable minority of students and faculty.
Smoking kills. There is no denying the facts. The habit has been linked to several types of cancer and other respiratory illnesses. Now, a finding by the Surgeon General has finally shown a direct link between secondhand smoke and cancer. This and a letter from a group of students prompted the University to form the committee to explore the possibility of a campus-wide smoking ban.
The University is well within its rights to consider such a ban. Several schools in the SEC have already done so, and smoking bans in bars, restaurants and public parks have become more popular nationally.
However, this does not mean the University should hastily react in light of the Surgeon General’s report with a blanket ban on smoking. Careful consideration is needed, and it seems that the committee is doing just that.
There are alternatives to a campus-wide smoking ban. Specific areas could be designated as smoking zones, or the University could mandate no smoking within a hundred feet of any campus building. Such policies would allow smokers to maintain their lifestyle while keeping secondhand smoke out of the lungs of passersby.
However, the University could argue that setting up smoking zones would in fact be acknowledging and condoning a bad habit. It may be that the status quo is the only possible alternative to a campus ban.
Yet even if the University proceeds with its smoking ban, it will be difficult to enforce.
Campus police and security are not everywhere at once, and smokers will undoubtedly take measures to thwart the policy the same way dorm residents smuggle alcohol and illegal drugs. Regardless, many students will not wish to take the risk of suffering whatever penalties the University chooses to impose for violations of the policy, and perhaps some will instead try to quit smoking.
Or maybe it will only create a small minority of students anxious in class, itching to leave campus to satisfy their nicotine craving.
It is clear there is no easy answer to the University’s question of a campus smoking ban. The committee must proceed carefully, considering all points of view along the way.
Regardless of its decision, the University considering such a ban shows it holds the health and safety of its students to the utmost importance. For this, we should all be grateful.