Tobacco-free campus not so liberating

With the growth of anti-smoking campaigns and garish warning labels on tobacco products, cigarette smokers have become increasingly demonized in our society. It is understandable, though, due to the overwhelming data regarding tobacco-induced illness and death.

There is no denying that it is a dangerous and unattractive habit.

There is an initiative by the Health and Counseling Student Action Committee to make ASU a tobacco-free campus. The initiative is also supported by ASU’s Health Services Department and appears to be gaining momentum among faculty and students alike.

This smoking ban, while proactive with regards to health concerns, takes away personal freedoms of students and ultimately gets the University involved in an area that is none of its concern.

It is easy for non-smokers to disregard the feelings of smokers because the initiative doesn’t directly affect them. From looking around campus, one gets the sense that smokers are the minority and they make efforts to avoid confrontation with non-smokers.

You see them sitting alone outside of buildings, backed into corners of Hayden’s entrance hoping not to offend their fellow students. Why are we trying so hard to single out those who make great efforts to be considerate to fellow students?

Their minority status makes them an easy target, but it does not give anyone else the right to say what is right for them and what is wrong. It is up to them as individuals, plain and simple.

There is another body that smoking students do not affect: the University as an institution. Since when is it a public university’s job to enforce the decisions a student makes? Are we not all adults here? Some students may need more guidance than others, but using tobacco products is a personal decision and should be treated as such. It is just another instance of the University treating adults like children.

The Student Action Committee’s motion makes a strong case for the issue. It is unfortunate however, that the motion specifies little about the students that are affected by the motion, but focuses more on the benefits to the University, mainly fiscal ones. The first sentence of the motion states that this action is requested “to promote the health, wellness and safety of our students, faculty and staff” but goes on in the next section to say that the “policy would have the additional economic benefits of increased productivity and decreased usage of sick time.”

It would appear that the University benefits financially from taking away students’ or faculty members’ personal choices. Doesn’t sound like a fair trade to me.

This isn’t about smokers or non-smokers. It is about us as a society, especially one that prides ourselves on our many freedoms. It may seem like a minor issue, but the overlying issue is much larger. When an organization starts trying to control people’s individual choices, we end up giving in to a state of social control that we have fought so hard to avoid.

Reach the columnist at schergos@asu.edu or on Twitter at @ShawnChergorsky


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