A smoke-free campus: it's about time

Posted by The Editorial Board

According to a campus-wide survey conducted by the Office of Health Promotions, approximately four percent of Skidmore students smoke cigarettes on a daily basis. It's a surprisingly small percentage considering the Case Center walkway, the entrances to the Tisch Learning Center and Bolton Hall, and the porch outside of the Lucy Scribner library seem perpetually congested with tobacco smoke.

Among college students, the national rate of reported smokers has grown to 30%. In the spring of 2013, 606 Skidmore students completed a survey conducted by the Office of Health Promotions on alcohol and drug use. According to the survey:

- 171 of the 606 students surveyed had smoked cigarettes within the past year

- 35.4% of these students don't smoke during the week while

- 18.9% of these students smoke on a daily basis

With the national rate of reported smokers growing significantly over the last decade, there has been a nation-wide effort on college campuses to instill smoke-free policies. As of July 2013, there are 1,117 100 percent smoke-free campuses in the United States.

The Student Affairs sub-committee of the Student Government Association is currently revising its proposal to present to the Institutional Policy and Planning Committee, according to Dean of Student Affairs, Rochelle Calhoun. The Student Affairs sub-committee is composed of Calhoun, members of faculty and members of the SGA, including President of SGA Sam Harris '15.

According to Calhoun, the Student Affairs sub-committee plans to propose a phased process to becoming smoke-free. Beginning in the fall of 2014, designated smoking areas would be established as well as a ban on smoking within twenty feet of a building. The committee plans to have a completely smoke-free campus beginning in the fall of 2016.

Following the lead of Amherst College and Westchester Community College, the college plans to enforce the ban using signs and placing smoking receptacles 25 feet away from a building entrance. Calhoun stated that violations of the smoking policy would be treated like other policy violations on campus, meaning multiple violations could result in a referral to the Integrity Board for a conduct hearing.

But do students deserve the right to smoke wherever they want?

Not on a private college campus. Furthermore, there is no "right" to use tobacco under either federal or state law. While The Skidmore News does not condemn students for personally choosing to smoke, smoking is exactly that-a personal decision. The use of tobacco does not belong in a public space, especially because, like any negative externality such as pollution, it inevitably affects any person close by. To state the obvious, tobacco smoke is a danger to one's health and the environment. It's a personal decision that, when made in a public space, affects the nearby and uninvolved.

But would the ban be effective?

In a 2008 study, researchers at Indiana University found that after the instillation of a campus-wide smoking ban, the percentage of students that reported smoking cigarettes dropped from 16.5% to 12.8%.

The Student Affairs sub-committee is proposing a realistic and logical plan to slowly phase out smoking. The Skidmore News believes that two other components of the plan must be added as well to make the ban effective:

1) A tangible disciplinary action, such as a fine, would enforce the ban much more effectively than pure signage and the possibility of disciplinary action. Tulane University slaps offenders of the smoking-ban with a $25 fine. To be frank, if we are serious about eventually having a smoke-free campus, the punishment for violation must be more than a mere slap on the wrist or a BASICS course.

2) If the college is advocating for a smoke-free campus, it only makes sense that programs for smokers who desire to quit are offered by Health Services. If we are creating a campus that is essentially anti-smoking, we must help students who desire to quit and acclimate to this new campus culture.

It's about time Skidmore takes this logical step forward to create a healthier campus environment. It's nonsensical to allow second hand smoke in crowded public areas of an intellectual institution nearly 50 years after the Surgeon General declared tobacco smoke highly detrimental to human health. The smoke-free campus initiative will most likely be largely unpopular and difficult to implement, but in an effort to improve the health of our campus culture it is worth the endeavor.

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