Thoughts on Tobacco Free Campus

Vincent Goffredo

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For the last few weeks of the spring semester and throughout the Summer I session, I couldn’t help but notice the excited announcements for a “tobacco free campus” coming June 1 to the University of New Haven.

Being a recreational cigar smoker myself, such a movement had little effect on me; it wasn’t like I left class to have a cigar or needed cigar breaks at work.  But as time progressed and I overheard more and more people discussing the issue, my opinion changed from passive to concerned.  Simply put, a complete ban of all tobacco use anywhere on campus is not only unnecessary but extremely unfair to the student and faculty population who legally purchase tobacco products and willingly use them at their leisure.

Of the issues I have with this policy, the first is the complete ban of tobacco.  While it seems reasonable to ban smoking due to the well documented “second hand” harms, to ban the use of chewing tobacco and other forms of “dip” is unreasonable.

These products harm only one person; the one who wilfully chooses to use them.  There are no “second hand” effects of chewing tobacco; rather, those who speak out against these products commonly site the presence of “dip bottles” and the scent of the product as the reason for their displeasure.  Surely this is no different than the excessive application of intrusive colognes/perfumes or loudly listening to music through headphones; in no way harmful to those around the offending individual yet in no way banned, regulated, or otherwise targeted for “health reasons.”

One area of concern which should trouble every student is the slippery slope which we have now been forced down as a result of this new policy.  The indiscriminate ban of tobacco because of its adverse effects can easily be twisted in an effort to remove many other things from our grounds because of their unhealthy potential. For example, the ability for of-age students to consume alcohol (which could lead to a DUI) or the ability to purchase fried foods for a meal (which could lead to heart complications).

While these additional steps are obviously unlikely, the general principle is the same; these are things which are openly permitted despite their possible consequences and no one is attacking them on any level whatsoever.

The next issue I have with this policy is the complete lack of compromise.  Rather than have a 100 percent prohibition of all tobacco products, why not ban smoking during traditional classroom hours?

Better yet, it seems much more reasonable to ban tobacco use within 50 feet of all academic buildings.   By simply requiring smokers to remove themselves from the general public when indulging (as most of them already do), non-smokers will know exactly which areas welcome smokers and can avoid accidentally going there.  This is not to say non-smokers will need to go out of their way to protect their health, as the permitted smoking areas would be out of the way of usual foot traffic, placing the burden of inconvenience on the person wishing to smoke.  It is important to remember that all smoking on UNH occurred outdoors in the first place; not once was a student’s learning experience impeded because the person sitting next to them was smoking.

Finally, this ban seems to have been put into place without considering additional effects.  For example, if a professor formerly smoked during a break in the middle of a three hour class, will the quality of their lesson be impacted now that they cannot?

In 2013, the Center for Disease Control reported 18.7% of adults between 18-24 years old is a smoker, meaning that while still a minority, this is a substantial amount of people to consider.

This ban has the potential to not only affect the efficiency of the professors giving a lesson, but also the student’s ability to focus and retain information.

Smoking is not simply a bad habit such as biting nails or grinding teeth, smoking is an addiction.  UNH’s flagrant advertisement of a smoke free campus is not nearly as much about promoting the health of its students as it is about bragging on their self-perceived victory over smoking.

Even as I write this, I can see a “tobacco free campus” sign fixed to the door of the library.  But just as clearly as I see the sticker on the window, the names and numbers for resources to quit this addiction are nowhere to be found.

The bottom line is abundantly clear; this is not an effort to help student smokers or to beautify our campus, it’s a movement to further demonize tobacco use and keep it “out of sight (or campus), out of mind” rather than address the issue.

I, along with the multitude of student smokers attending UNH, am extremely disappointed with this new policy and hope this is not the beginning of an intrusive and restrictive pattern of policy making in the years to come.

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Thoughts on Tobacco Free Campus