Pragmatic Perspective: A smoke-free campus, issues to consider

Has anyone heard about the student senate-led discussions about creating a so-called “smoke-/tobacco-free” campus? I heard about it briefly a few months ago, but didn’t think it was serious until I saw a poster on the first day of school encouraging students to voice their opinions on the discussion board of the student senate’s Facebook page.

Wanting to see what people had to say, I visited the page and found literally tens of comments! Of course, when I say tens, I actually mean four comments, only one of which I believe was from a non-student senator. Despite being somewhat pathetic in scope, I did think the discussion provided some interesting opinions and insights in spite of the somewhat pitiful comment-to-student-body ratio (approximately 0.00016 percent of the student body opined on the discussion board, but who’s counting?).

Upon reading every single comment — all four of them (yes, I’m going to poke fun at it the entire time) — the first issue that crossed my mind was that there wasn’t one smoker who had made a contribution to the discussion. The Deseret News even did a story back in February on the possible “smoke-free” future of WSU, and there was only one less-than-intelligent entry on the online comment board. Shouldn’t smokers be offering their views and concerns? This affects them more than anyone else. Shouldn’t they be worried? I’m not sure if you’re aware, but Weber State University already has regulations pertaining to smoking. Yep, that’s right, no one can smoke within 20 or 25 feet of any building. Is this news to anyone else? It’s probably news to you, because no one has ever seen this rule followed nor have we seen it enforced. Smokers aren’t commenting because they don’t feel threatened. When they smoke outside the doors of Elizabeth Hall, nobody stops and tells them to move 20 feet down the sidewalk, so why should they be worried about future regulations? Enforcement needs to be a top priority for our student senate upon making any new regulations. Sure, you can make rules, but how are you going to be sure that students are keeping them?

The second issue to address is whether or not smoking is doing enough damage to completely ban it from our campus. Is secondhand smoke a real threat? To smokers, I ask this question: Do you really think that your smoke only affects you and no one else? I think there are many unhealthy activities in which we can participate that truly only affect ourselves, but I don’t think smoking is one of them. Again, this begs the question — should WSU be completely smoke-free, or should there be designated areas specifically for smoking? Would this measure completely alienate smoking students? These are all issues that would need to be addressed as to how far we should take such regulations.

The third issue to be addressed is that of freedom. But is this really an issue of freedom? I know many will decry smoking regulations as Nazi-like fascism and a deliberate attack on American freedoms. And to them I say — get over yourselves and stop listening to so much talk radio. Before you slap on your “Don’t Tread on Me” T-shirt while screaming Orwell quotes, just stop and think about what this issue truly implicates. It’s not an issue of freedom, but of public and, more specifically, student health and wellness. Do you see McDonald’s employees protesting on the streets because they’re not free to choose whether or not they wash their hands before preparing your Big Mac? Or do you see doctors screaming ‘Big Brother’ because they have to use different needles on different patients? No, because they understand how their actions affect public health and wellness. Now, I understand that this is a bit of a different situation, but similarly, we should all understand that less tobacco on campus would create an overall healthier atmosphere for everybody.

I’m not a smoker myself, but I do feel that if someone wants to partake of tobacco products, then they have a right to do so. I do, however, feel that, just like any other public institution, we must look after the overall health and well-being of all those being served. We must also remember that any new regulations must be enforced and viewed as something serious. We furthermore need to try to meet the needs of all WSU students, smokers and non-smokers alike. And lastly, we need to recognize that this isn’t an issue of freedom, but rather an issue of making and keeping WSU one of the best institutes of higher education and learning.