Proposed U policies violate smokers’ rights

No one contests that smoking is detrimental to health; most people also recognize the harm secondhand smoke can do to others. But this is no reason for the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Use Task Force to further limit students’ ability to do what they have a legal right to, regardless of personal harm.

It seems Boynton Health Service is hell-bent on policing students’ behavior. Its goal of keeping University students healthy is noble and many of its efforts are admirable. However, it must stop trying to take away students’ legal rights. First it attempted to ban tobacco sales on campus and now it is trying to ban smoking inside the Washington Avenue Bridge and within 25 feet of campus buildings.

For all non-smokers, it is annoying when people smoke; your hair smells, your eyes water and, worst of all, you inhale smoke. However, this happens all over, and it is just as easy to move away from smokers and avoid smoke inside the bridge as it is outside. The bridge is a building, but it is large, open and well ventilated. Smoke does not hang in the air long and is only a detriment to non-smokers if they walk near a lit cigarette.

The impossibility of enforcing this ban is also clear. According to the ATOD committee chairman, enforcement would occur with signs on buildings and in the bridge and placing ashtrays where smoking is allowed. Additionally, University police would fine students who “repeatedly violated” the ban. Any smoker who does not wish to follow the policy could easily ignore it; no number of signs or ashtrays will deter students from doing what they want if there are no repercussions. And fines would likely not be distributed often; University police have better things to do than play safety patrol for secondhand smoke, and knowing which students have repeatedly violated the ban would also be difficult.

Admittedly, the ATOD task force aims “to curb the effects of secondhand smoke and reduce smoking.” Although it would be ideal to curb smoking, the fact remains, smoking is legal. Students are consenting adults and have the right to engage in legal activities detrimental to their health. Restricting other activities legal for students would be met with outrage; however, smokers have been demonized to such a point many do no see their rights as worth protecting.

Boynton Health Service and the ATOD committee have their hearts in their right places; their actions, however, need re-direction. Plenty of factors threaten students’ health daily: bus exhaust, poor nutrition and even an air-polluting coal plant near campus. Perhaps if they focused their energy on these conditions, which would not infringe students’ rights, everyone could be happier and healthier.