As vote looms, tobacco sales ban debated

Maggie Hessel-Mial

The Twin Cities Student Unions will vote Thursday on a ban on all campus tobacco sales.

On the eve of the vote, students argued about the consequences of such a ban. Those in favor cited health effects, while opponents touted the ban would violate students’ civil rights.

Last spring, two Boynton Health Center student groups – Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Use and the Student Health Advisory committees – asked the TCSU board to ban the sale of tobacco on campus.

Tobacco sales – though not advertised on campus – bring in approximately $60,000 to the University, said Karen Lyons, TCSU marketing director. Without this income, she said, the University might have to seek funds from the Student Fees Committee.

To weigh the public opinion on the matter, the University’s Parliamentary Debate Society held a public debate Wednesday night.

Approximately 75 students attended the event – a larger audience than the previous two Society debates.

Speakers argued both sides of the possible tobacco ban.

Proponent and College of Liberal Arts sophomore Ryan Black said a moral choice the University needs to make is his main reason for supporting eliminating sales.

“It’s immoral for the University to profit on the addiction of other people,” Black said.

Rick Hay, a CLA sophomore and fellow debater, said the University should ban cigarette sales because of the negative health effects and toxicity of second hand smoke.

Dan Otto, a Carlson School of Management junior who opposed the ban, said he found students’ basic civil rights to be of greater importance.

“The University has an obligation to produce autonomous adults,” Otto said. “People face choices every day on whether to smoke tobacco. The University is being paternalistic in trying to make this decision for them.”

Audience opinions were divided.

Allyson Lember, a CLA freshman, said she didn’t think the ban would stop students from smoking.

“Everyone knows it’s bad for you,” Lember said. “If people want to smoke, they will. Why take money away from the University?”

Andy Barnhart agreed.

“The ‘U’ is a business, it has to make money,” Barnhart said. “Especially since the tuition increase, the University needs to make more money.”

Chris Phillippi, a CLA sophomore, did not hold the same opinion.

“Thirty thousand dollars to sixty thousand dollars is a cheap price for symbolism,” Phillippi said.

Josh Rissman, a CLA freshman, used the civil rights argument against those opposing the ban.

“What about the civil rights of those who choose not to smoke?” Rissman asked.

The Society chose to hold the debate because of its proximity to students, said Jeff Nath, a CLA sophomore.

“There’s a lack of a public forum for students to voice opinions,” Nath said.

Attendees of the debate – a small sample of the University campus – voted against the ban on tobacco.

The TCSU Board of Governors will place their votes Thursday, making the final decision on whether or not to allow tobacco sales on campus.

Maggie Hessel-Mial welcomes comments at [email protected]