You may have noticed an email from University of Massachusetts Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy about an upcoming smoking ban. It is a pathetic attempt by the University to govern personal behavior.
Prohibition is never the answer; education is the best way to alter people’s habits.
Over the past 20 years there has been incredible success lowering the smoking rate across this country and it is due largely to an excellent awareness campaign that includes TV commercials, health education, warning labels on cigarettes, bans on smoking indoors and a myriad of products designed to help users quit.
Banning all tobacco products on campus is a terrible idea, it’s unenforceable and a violation of our personal freedom.
I am not a smoker nor do I support cigarette smoking. Smoking is a disgusting habit and we should be doing everything we can to curb its use.
The sentiment that the smoking ban is founded on is noble. It seeks to promote healthy lifestyles and reduce the amount of litter on campus. They are worthy ideals, but this rule is a clumsy tool and will not succeed at achieving either of the designed goals.
The only way to promote healthy behavior is through education; smokers have to choose to quit. Prohibition never works. It didn’t work for alcohol, it doesn’t work for drugs and it won’t work for tobacco.
Prohibition leaves a window for people to be “badasses” by breaking the rules. For example, underage drinking is way more exciting before you turn 21. If you drink a lot in high school you’re a rebel, if you drink a lot as an adult you’re looked down upon.
What about all the cigarettes butts covering the ground? Banning cigarettes will reduce that, right? Wrong.
The first thing that UMass will do is remove the cigarette butt columns outside every building. Since the rule is voluntary, people won’t stop smoking. The amount of litter will increase because people won’t have a place to throw out their cigarettes.
Others argue that banning smoking, though unenforceable, will set a tone that that kind of behavior is not condoned. The message it really sends is that UMass wishes to impose its own moral choices on you.
The ban is not morality though; morality is about how you treat others, not about how you treat yourself. If cigarettes smokers want to smoke outside, let them. It’s wrong and misguided to think this new rule will change anything.
The fact that people must voluntarily comply means this new rule is not going to be followed. In Boston and New York, the cities have adopted similar policies. It has not stopped anyone from smoking in parks or on the sidewalks.
UMass’s rule goes further than cigarettes; it includes e-cigarettes, dip, chewing tobacco and other smokeless products. Students would be required to leave campus to consume them since students won’t even smoke in their own cars. Given that all freshmen are required to live on campus and a large number of upperclassman live in the dorms, it’s incredibly impractical to have to leave campus every time you want a nicotine fix.
The new rule is imposed on students who were not even included in the decision. It was handed down by the Faculty Senate with hardly any public discussion. The faculty is not required to live on campus. It is not fair that a bunch of commuters get to decide the rules for those who spend every day on the campus.
This ban has been compared by the Faculty Senate to the voluntary compliance request to stop putting chewing gum in water fountains. Once the signs went up, people stopped putting their gum there, so therefore, the Senate expects the same thing to happen with cigarettes. But it is not a comparable example.
First of all, cigarettes are extremely addictive; chewing gum is not, in most cases. Chewing gum was not banned; the faculty just asked people to stop putting gum in water fountains. Disposing chewing gum in water fountains is comparable to banning smoking indoors as it is rude to impose your disgusting habit on others.
Not allowing smoking inside is designed to protect people from being exposed to secondhand smoke, a known carcinogen. Banning outdoor tobacco use only protects users from themselves.
It is not the job of any government or institution. It is an extreme example of the nanny state that liberals are often criticized for.
If UMass is really committed to public health it should just stick to supporting students who want to quit and continue education in the dangers of smoking.
Alexander Delegas is a Collegian contributor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.