Smoking bans spark controversy

Airports aren’t the only places where, increasingly, smoking won’t fly.

This week the Denver International Airport’s decision to ban three of its four approved smoking lounges coincided with new efforts to officially ban tobacco on all of Ohio’s public university and community college campuses. And for smokers, what’s a few hours in an airport without a cigarette, compared to four whole years of inconvenience at a smoke-free college?

Across the country, an ever-growing number of colleges and universities are kicking smoking and tobacco off campus altogether. Over 700 American colleges and universities have approved campus-wide smoke-free policies, according to data collected by Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst is just one school that decided to ban smoking recently, in a Faculty Senate vote in April. The approved policy will make the campus smoke-free by July 2013. But at Amherst, like many universities, official measures to prohibit smoking have fired up debate among students.

Jimi Hayes, UMass Amherst ’15, feels the approved smoking ban is superfluous, since designated smoking areas already exist on campus. By trying to eliminate smoking from campus entirely, Hayes thinks the school could create more problems than it solves.

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“People will most likely smoke regardless of the ban,” said Hayes in an e-mail. “[Smokers will] most likely either throw butts in the regular trash, which could cause a fire, or just on the ground, which is a worse option than just having a few smokers poles around campus… I don’t really see much good coming of the ban, only upset people and possibly more litter on the ground.”.

Other students, like Charlie Morse, UMass Amherst ’15, see the smoking ban as a wholly positive step for the school.

“As a non-smoker, I fully support UMass Amherst’s decision. I find it difficult sometimes to walk around campus and get stuck behind someone who smokes because it becomes difficult for me to breathe,” Morse said in an e-mail.

“That being said, those that do smoke will most likely be upset by this and I imagine there will be some not-so-peaceful protest by those who will be against this decision, as UMass is unfortunately known for riots.”.

At other universities, the future of smoking on campus remains hazy.

The University of Vermont (UVM) sent out a survey this spring, asking students whether they smoked and if they would support a school-wide tobacco ban. Depending on the survey results, a recommendation to turn UVM into a tobacco-free campus may be made to the university president.

To Keegan Fairfield, UVM ’13, stamping out smoking altogether on campus would be going to far. “It’s a lifestyle, and it’s very easy for those who don’t smoke to come down hard on those who do smoke. On that premise, I think it becomes very unfair to ban smoking on a college campus,” said Fairfield.

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He noted that particularly at a large university, getting off campus for every tobacco fix could get to be an enormous time commitment for smokers–in UVM’s case, a student might have to walk 5-10 minutes to smoke a cigarette in a safely off-campus area.

“In my opinion it becomes a public shaming exercise. They’re applying a bad stigma to smoking, when in a lot of cases it’s not necessarily a fully voluntary habit,” said Fairfield. “An outright ban is just draconian.”.

With hundreds of smoke-free policies already instated in schools across the country, and even more proposed for the future, the question of ethics in banning smoking from college campuses certainly has some grey areas.

Annie Massa is a Summer 2012 USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent. Learn more about her here. Follow her on Twitter at @annietweetsetc.

This story originally appeared on the USA TODAY College blog, a news source produced for college students by student journalists. The blog closed in September of 2017.

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