ANGLES: Campus tobacco-free policy: overstepping boundaries or a step towards health?

Policy changes made a mountain out of a molehill


By the end of this semester, Augustana will complete its first academic year as a tobacco-free campus. 

According to a 2016 interview with Eric Vander Lee, the ASA senator who first proposed sanctions for tobacco use on campus, his concern over public health prompted him to take action and turn Augustana into a smoke-free campus. 

Although his intentions were good, the naïveté behind the policy and its enforcement is borderline ridiculous. Yes, smoking is bad for your health. Yes, it would be better for people not to smoke. But how is banning the use of tobacco products on campus going to help? If the penalization of substance use were actually effective, there would not be any drug addicts.

Nowhere in the world is smoking seen in such a bad light as in the United States. Every university I have visited or studied at outside this country has had designated smoking areas and no issue with people living their lives the way they want to. Here, not only is smoking banned—making it appear as a dreadful act—but it perpetuates an unnecessary alienation of smokers from non-smokers. 

I never understood the point of policing students in matters as trivial as their tobacco use. When the policy was first suggested to ASA, one of the reasons to back it up was that second-hand smoke was a growing concern on campus. Although this is a valid claim, it would have been more reasonable to set smoking areas rather than entirely banning tobacco campus wide—especially because, during the two years I spent here before the policy was applied, I never saw a single student smoking in high-traffic areas. 

In fact, I never saw a student smoking on campus at all. 

One of the most problematic aspects of the policy is that it not only affects students, but also staff. We are talking about adults being monitored on their cigarette-smoking habits which, truly, do not concern anybody outside themselves. Taking a smoke break during a long shift should not be such a controversial thing to do, and it should definitely not be penalized in any way. 

Although one can make an argument for crossing the street and smoking off-campus, it is necessary to remember we live in South Dakota, a state where snow in April is a thing and freezing temperatures are the norm for the most part of the academic year. I can’t even walk to class without wanting to run back to the warmth of my apartment, let alone stand outside facing arctic winds for a smoke. 

Controlling where tobacco use is allowed is not a problem. The problem is radicalising everything and not trying to look for moderate solutions to situations that should not even be considered an issue to begin with. It would have been easier to designate smoking areas and call it a day, but apparently the label of “smoke-free campus” is more important than being sensitive to other people’s life choices. 

I see the good intentions behind banning tobacco use on campus, but intentions are meaningless when they are based on naïve and unrealistic notions of reality. The university and ASA should stop overreaching and let people live their lives. In the meantime, I will be ranting about the ridiculousness of this on the sidewalk next to the FSC. 

Stop by if you need fire.

Stephanie Sanchez is a junior journalism, classics, and political science major from Quito, Ecuador.

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