The public-health juggernaut

At Coffman Theater on Monday evening, the UniversityâÄôs work group on tobacco policy held the second of two open forums regarding an outdoor smoking ban on campus. Charged with determining campus support, the work group insists they have no position on the smoking ban. Why then, did the Work Group schedule only two open forums? No wonder the second was held on December 8 âÄî when most students are bogged down with final assignments and studying for exams. Doubtful that this work group, which will furnish the campus attitudes report to University executives who have the final say on a ban over winter break, truly has no opinion regarding the proposal. The report they supply has two components: the first will be results of the problematic Boynton survey, which seriously underplayed the outdoor nature of the proposed ban. Second, the report is to include the feedback of more than 30 campus groups, including Deans, the Academic Health Center and University Athletics, as well as feedback from the generous two open forums. In no way will this report contain sufficient levels of student feedback âÄî and the work group knows it. In fact, the Work Group on Tobacco Policy is comprised primarily of University public health officials. Seven of the twelve members or consultants to the group actually belong to the Academic Health Center, Boynton, Health Programs, and the Student Health Advisory Committee âÄî who initiated the smoking ban process this spring. This is an illegitimate process, too well insulated from student input and too closely tied to public health. If the University genuinely wants to âÄúbe a leader in higher education,âÄù as the Work Group suggested Monday, it must undertake a less biased process for its âÄúproposedâÄù outdoor smoking ban.