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Student group protests proposed smoking ban

By Samuel Derkin and Rebecca Wittkofske
On October 17, 2013

In an organized protest against the proposed campus-wide smoking ban, the Young Americans for Liberty student organization handed out candy and “citations” on Oct. 15 in the Student Union.

As students bustled about the union, members of the Young Americans for Liberty held out bowls of candy for students to choose from. As students chose their candy, another member of the organization, satirically posing as a police officer, distributed mock citations and explained that candy is unhealthy and therefore must be eaten off campus.

Young Americans for Liberty president Ron Johns, a fourth-year student majoring in marketing and entrepreneurship, said the organization does not believe smoking should be banned on UT’s campus.

“We’re just doing something that’s generally as absurd as a smoking ban itself,” Johns said.

Although no smoking ban has been formally proposed, it has been a recent topic of discussion amongst Student Government senators. SG posted a survey about the subject Oct. 14, and it’s available through students’ myUT portals until Oct. 28.

SG members have said that if enough students who respond to the survey call for a smoke-free campus, the body will pen a resolution reflecting that opinion.

In criticism of the possible smoking ban, the citation charged students eating candy with “reckless consumption” for “disrespectful digestion of candy.” Citations were handed out with other “fines” that could be waived by attending the next organizational meeting.

Johns, who organized the protest, said the proposed ban infringes on students’ rights.

“Young Americans for Liberty believe the people have the right to put whatever they want in their bodies,” Johns said. As long as they’re not harming another individual, it’s their right.”

The Young Americans for Liberty said that most students on campus are 18 or older and that whether or not they smoke is a choice they can make as adults.

“I don’t believe that I, as a non-smoker, should be able to tell somebody they can’t smoke,” Johns said.

Johns believes that the ban would waste some of the money.

“We already just paid a bunch of money for all these smoking huts, so why can’t we just keep them up and use them for what they’re used for?” Johns said.

Regardless of the organization’s protest, some students still agree with and support the campus wide smoking ban.

Sara Federman, a fourth-year biology major thinks the ban is a good idea.

“Clean campus, clean air. I like not having to worry about what I’m breathing into my lungs,” Federman said.

Loc Pham, a third-year biology major, doesn’t want smoking to be completely banned, but does want the smokers in a “different, more isolated area.”

Shayn Hornik, a third-year bioengineering major and member of the Young Americans for Liberty, said the purpose of the protest was to raise awareness that most of the students the organization had talked to were against the smoking ban.

“This is main campus,” said Johns. “People can walk away from the smoke huts. [The huts are] nowhere in main traffic, so it’s really their choice if they want to walk by second hand smoke or not.”


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