Questions on tobacco ban

There are questions to be asked about the proposed campus tobacco ban.


Key groups are supporting the proposed tobacco ban on the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus, including the Minnesota Student Association and the University Senate. While reducing the public health risks and costs of tobacco is a merit-worthy undertaking, there are numerous questions that should be addressed before the adoption of such a policy.

Many of the details of the plan will ultimately depend on an implementation to be developed by Boynton Health Service. Approving a tobacco-free policy before close scrutiny of the implementation plan is a poor course of action.

First, what goal does a tobacco ban really set out to achieve? Such a question drives at a corollary: Is the proposed measure the most effective way of combating the problem identified? Supporters of a tobacco-free policy identify numerous goals, some of which may not see gains with the proposed policy. Some cite litter: Simply removing ashtrays will likely make the litter problem worse.

Second, how will the policy be enforced? Under the current proposal, the policy seems to de-emphasize enforcement and rely on other students and staff to ask smokers to put out their cigarettes. For those who are concerned about exposure to secondhand smoke, simply encouraging concerned non-smokers to ask smokers to put out cigarettes offers little improvement.

Policy without official enforcement offers little positive consequence at the expense of the respect for other policies. Though implementation has not been finalized, many college campuses have public safety officers that will use warnings that do not involve tickets or the Student Conduct Code. If these policies are not rigorously enforced, will respect for rules be an issue? Should such a policy rely on self-enforcement as well?

Finally, while faculty and staff have financial incentives in their health insurance pricing to quit smoking on their own, why not adopt a similar incentive with lower student health benefit pricing for non-smokers?