MSA debates a campuswide smoking ban

Correction: This article incorrectly implied that MSA voted against the smoking ban. MSA did not take a stance on the smoking ban.

Six months after legislators passed a statewide smoking ban into law, some student government representatives are lobbying University officials to outlaw smoking outdoors too, for a campuswide smoking ban.

At its April 8 forum, Minnesota Student Association members threw their hats into the ring when Justin Carlson, Yudof Hall representative for MSA and member of Colleges Against Cancer, presented a resolution in support of a campuswide smoking ban.

“Ultimately I think it’s more of a stance,” Carlson said of his proposed resolution. “It’s a step in the right direction.”

Since the beginning of the year, the Student Health Advisory Committee has been discussing ways to implement a campuswide smoking ban, committee co-chairwoman Chloe Schrab said.

Schrab said the committee wants to look at designing a task force to get people’s input on the issue.

Jenna Langer, chairwoman of Colleges Against Cancer, said presenting this resolution at the MSA forum was meant to start a dialogue.

And start a dialogue it did.

At-large representative Dylan Kelly said MSA would be overstepping its boundaries by supporting a smoking ban.

“It’s not MSA’s job to take that stance and forcing people not to smoke,” he said. “We don’t need the student government forcing it upon people like that.”

MSA forum member Jim Forrey shared Kelly’s sentiments.

“I am against an all-out smoking ban, because I think it is overstepping the bounds of any governing body,” he said. “It punishes people for using a product which is legally sold.”

Smokers may have the right to smoke, but supporters of the smoking ban raised arguments about their rights as nonsmokers.

“Smokers have the right to smoke, but at the same time, we as nonsmokers have the right to breathe clean air,” Langer said.

Director and health officer for Boynton Health Service Ed Ehlinger said he was in favor of a campuswide smoking ban because of the negative health impacts of secondhand smoke.

“I believe the evidence shows that tobacco smoke is dangerous,” he said. “It’s important to ensure that everyone on this campus can breathe clean air.”

The primary criticism of the smoking ban was how it could be enforced at a University of this size.

“I just don’t see any way they can enforce it without being overly aggressive about it,” Kelly said. “It seems like a waste of time and energy.”

Ultimately, the proposed resolution was amended by Kelly to state that MSA would work with Boynton to promote smoking cessation programs, and not to support a campuswide smoking ban.

“It’s a way to address the issue, but still letting people make their own decisions,” Kelly said.

Schrab said she doesn’t think the amended resolution will be very effective.

“If they were to vote on a position, I think it would have been disastrous,” she said. “I think their decision to switch the resolution was kind of hasty and I just don’t think it’s going to go anywhere.”

MSA was initially going to discuss an anti-smoking-ban resolution at its April 22 forum, but since MSA did not pass a resolution in favor of a smoking ban, several representatives said the additional discussion wasn’t necessary.

Schrab said a campuswide smoking ban is a real possibility in the coming years.

“I think smoking is on its way out,” she said. “It’s just deciding which year the campus community is going to be ready for it to be implemented.”