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Enforce what we have first

On June 18, 2012

A local lawyer proposed to the Ohio Board of Regents that it recommend the public universities of Ohio enforce a full smoking ban on campuses. This is an increase of policies already in place restricting smoking on university campuses.

With a smoke-free campus, nobody wins. A complete smoking ban should not be enforced on UT’s campus. Instead, the middle ground — UT’s current policy — should be enforced.

There are three main problems with UT enforcing a full ban on smoking on campus. It is an infringement on the rights of students, faculty and staff who are smokers. If enforced, the current regulations protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke. For students living on campus, this regulation would prevent smokers from being able to smoke at their homes away from home.

When discussing infringements on a non-smokers’ rights, they are usually only thinking about the breach of their own rights. Often, protecting one’s rights involves the infringement of the rights of others. Thus, the advocates become the oppressors, which is the case here.

If non-smokers wish to use the infringement argument against smokers, non-smokers only serve to violate their own rule. There are alternative options which could be chosen. A better solution would be to allow the students, faculty, and staff to decide on the issue on their own with a majority rule since the campus is shared by all.

The deciding question on this issue is “what is the point of action if there is no result?” Obviously, based on the current situation, nobody would follow a full ban. Most smokers on campus violate the current regulations which involve “butt huts” and previous rules that required that smokers simply be a certain distance from any building.

Students do not currently see the policies being enforced. If tickets are given out for ignoring these rules, they are not obvious. At best, smokers are generally scolded by other members of the UT community.

Reiterating President Lloyd Jacobs’ point concerning public health and second-hand smoking, the strongest argument for a smoking ban is that it hinders the rights and endangers the health of non-smokers, thus choosing a healthier lifestyle.

Perhaps change will occur and eventually the students and faculty will adjust. This regulation will possibly reduce the amount of smoking because of its inconveniences to go off campus in order to smoke. Smokers will smoke less and be healthier for it. The non-smokers will experience less second-hand smoke.

While this is possible and would be lovely if probable, it is not likely. Instead of the students walking off campus, UT would simply have created another regulation which will not be followed by smokers and, based on the present situation, would not be enforced.

If enforced, the current university guidelines concerning smoking will prevent a non-smoker from having to come into close-proximity with a smoker and the rights of smokers are preserved. To not allow smoking anywhere on campus, on public property, is to completely ignore the rights of the smoking population. This is an unnecessary step if there are alternative options, such as enforcing the current guidelines.

We do not support a full ban, but an enforcement of the current one. Our recommendation is to enforce the current policy before considering a new policy. The past policy may have changed, but reality has not.


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