By Rachel Kimbrough
The campus-wide tobacco ban has been in effect for three months now. The effort has proven futile and counterproductive thus far.
For one thing, the ban did not improve the cigarette-butt litter issue—the litter issue just moved, mainly to parking areas and poorly-lit outdoor stairwells. The logic behind that solution never made sense anyway. If the college wanted to improve general litter, for example, the solution would not be to remove all the trash cans. Likewise, expecting the removal of tobacco waste bins to solve the tobacco waste issue is nothing short of backwards reasoning.
For another thing, this is yet another area in which the need for more campus security officials is apparent. There is simply no way for this ban to be effectively enforced, not by any fault of the existing campus security staff members, but simply due to the ratio of campus police to students, faculty and staff on campus. There’s no way for such a comparatively small security staff to keep up with the tens of thousands of people on campus.
Here’s a fun development on that note: this ban has (albeit unintentionally, I hope) empowered non-smokers to be openly discriminatory toward smokers, regardless of whether said smokers are in legal smoking areas. Just today a fellow fully screamed expletives at my friend and me about our habits as we sat in my car, i.e. a permitted smoking area. (You stay classy, gentleman in the parking garage.)
That didn’t happen before the smoking ban. Not with that extreme sort of righteous anger, anyway.
Lastly, the near-complete removal of smoking areas has done nothing to increase a healthy atmosphere on campus. That’s an entirely counterintuitive result—you would think that an asthmatic person, for example, would have an easier time dodging plumes of smoke now that smoking is no longer allowed on campus. What’s actually happening, though, is people will smoke anywhere, absolutely anywhere, with no chance at happening to be in a clearly-marked designated smoking area.
Before the tobacco ban, some smokers did, yes, smoke outside of the designated areas. But tobacco use was still mainly limited to a few spots on campus, with signs that told everyone to avoid that area if they didn’t want to walk through smoke.
Now that there are almost none of those areas, save a couple huts outside of ITC, non-smokers have no shot at predicting where there might be clouds of smoke. For the purposes of avoiding smoke, the tobacco ban is as effective as making the entire campus a designated smoking area.
This is what arises from an all-or-nothing solution.
Here’s my solution: implement more, strategically-placed smoking huts like the ones outside of ITC, and make consequences of smoking outside of those huts far harsher than a $10 fine and a slap on the wrist.
That solves the litter problem. That solves the health problem, the inconvenience to non-smokers. That solves the smokers’ disregard for campus police and lack of enforcement.
Something the college has not tried before is simultaneously having designated smoking areas on campus and consequences for smoking outside of those areas. There has been no attempt to find the happy medium in that way. The college should try that out.
Contact Rachel Kimbrough, editor-in-chief, at firstname.lastname@example.org.