Smoking ban lacks common sense

What happens when policies fail to protect the people they are intended to protect because they arenâÄôt properly enforced? At the University of Minnesota, we just create new policies. That is the mentality of the University in their quest to completely ban smoking (outdoors and indoors) from any University property. Besides the individual liberty issues and gross violations of self responsibility, common sense is once again in jeopardy for students, faculty and support staff. Student groups and University health officials are mostly behind this push, not the actual student body. This is nothing new; many policies are made based on extreme fringe groups that corner the administration. But this time is different because we, as students, may be asked to help enforce this new rule. The Minnesota Student Association and University Senate discussions have focused somewhat on the inability of the University police to enforce such a smoking ban, and theyâÄôre looking for your help. Here are the main issues at stake: 1) The University is not a law-making body and does not have the duty to enact new regulations because it feels the legislature hasnâÄôt gone far enough. As much as some officials enjoy a nice power trip from time to time, policies that affect more than 50,000 students should be well thought out, from implementation to enforcement, and an outdoor smoking ban meets neither of those requirements. 2) Passionate supporters of the ban will tell you that many other colleges are moving toward such a ban and smoking is costing the University millions in healthcare costs. Common sense tells us that the Twin Cities campus is unique. With students intermixed in an urban setting stretching from one major metropolitan center to another, the sheer concept of banning anything under the parameters of physical property is ludicrous. We should be leading, not following. We need a policy that fits our needs and doesnâÄôt replicate campuses one-tenth the size of ours, like Moorhead State University and University of Minnesota-Duluth. 3) The ban must not be intended to stop secondhand smoke related interaction on campus, or it will be doomed to fail like so many other policies before it. We currently have laws that require smokers to stay several feet away from buildings when they light up, and these laws arenâÄôt enforced. Does that mean we make more rules that nobody will enforce? Why is the automatic response to policies that are unenforceable the creation of more unenforceable rules? Once we have the guts and resources to move smokers away from buildings, we will have essentially solved many of the secondhand problems we have. 4) This is America; we have personal liberties until the elected lawmakers of our government take them away. The University is not an elected government. 5) On healthcare costs: If the University is spending too much money covering people with health defects due to smoking, it should stop covering such illnesses. As much as some people on campus believe they have the authority to use tuition dollars to create a universal health care system, they do not. We should stop covering smokers if we want to send a signal, instead of telling them which piece of dirt they can smoke on and which one they canâÄôt, followed up by student-funded subsidized healthcare when they get lung disease. On a more general note, IâÄôm most concerned about the smoking ban becoming a priority for the leaders of our school. With double-digit tuition increases, a staff hiring freeze and what looks like a gigantic budget deficit in the legislature, we really do have other things to spend our time on. Andy Post welcomes comments at [email protected]