Editorial: A Smoke-free Campus

Posted by The Editorial Board

With an ever-rising number of college campuses in the country banning or restricting smoking, it has come as no surprise that members of the Skidmore College community have been discussing the idea. As noted in "Smoke-Free? Skidmore's future as a smoke-friendly campus," SGA and the administration have been entertaining such a notion since the end of last year. The question at hand is not whether the school has the right to enact such a policy, but what kind of approach the school might take in restricting smoking, and whether or not such action is truly necessary.

Cities and states have been placing bans on smoking in public places since the 1990's. According to a study done by the American College Health Association, published in 2009, 48.6% of the U.S. population is already protected by 100% smoke-free workplace, bar and restaurant laws. Despite protest and an eventual repealment after a year, the ban on smoking in New York City public parks proved that no place, public or private, indoors or outdoors, is safe from such policies. In principle this applies to Skidmore. As long as we walk on ground that is owned by the College, the administration has the right to enforce this policy.

If taken from a more democratic angle, it should be noted that the 2012 Surgeon General's Report on Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults states that 24.8% of college students aged 18-22 were smokers in 2010. If one considers the idea of majority rule, then shouldn't it make sense for the 75% of students who do not smoke to be recognized and protected?

According to the Americans for Nonsmoker's Rights Foundation, 774 colleges or universities in the U.S. have adopted 100% smoke-free campus policies as of July 2012. The trend seems to be spreading rapidly considering that the number of campuses with such a policy was only at 420 two years prior. It should also be noted that these numbers do not even include campuses that have enforced designated smoking zone policies as opposed to absolute bans.

Many campuses have instituted policies that restrict smoking to certain parts of campus, and this idea is more inline with what the Skidmore administration is considering. The College already banned smoking in the residence halls and stopped selling cigarettes in the Skidmore Shop. There is not a whole lot more that the administration can do to discourage smoking other than by banning or restricting it.

If students are still complaining about having to endure the vast amount of secondhand smoke that seem to accumulate outside of the residence halls and academic buildings, then in order to avoid infringing upon the rights of smokers, we need to consider how Skidmore as a community can balance everyone's rights equally.

Some students might argue that by placing ashtrays on the tables outside of Burgess and on the walls outside of buildings the administration is either condoning smoking or designating those areas as smoke-tolerable, but these same zones seem to be the most commonly complained about by nonsmokers. It is worth noting that these ashtrays are there for environmental purposes. The administration could not make its rightfully justified stance against smoking any clearer than with the policies that are already in place. They do not condone it, as anyone who understands the health implications would not, but they respect us as mature adults and thus allow us to continue doing it.

If we are going to avoid having to enact such a policy we need to be considerate of each other. Just because the ashtrays are located next to doorways doesn't mean you have to smoke there. Walk ten or fifteen feet away from a building so that passerbys do not have to endure the consequences of other people's decisions.

We do not need to have a formal written rule when we can have an unspoken one. If we respect each other and our rights to smoke or avoid secondhand smoke, then the administration will not need to further consider this policy.  

Opinions, questions, concerns? Submit a letter to the editorial board about this editorial or any other campus topic you feel is worth discussing.

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