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Letter to the editor: OSU should extinguish its misguided efforts to be a tobacco-free campus

Letter to the editor:

The university is well-intentioned with the proposed tobacco-free policy, but it is misguided. Let me preface by saying that I am not a smoker, nor do I advocate that anyone smoke. The proposed tobacco-free policy is supposed to make a healthier campus, yet it is unenforceable, results in unintended consequences, does not make us healthier, and is a clear violation of the rights of the minority.
In 2007, the Ohio Smoke Free Workplace Act started being enforced. This act included a provision that said smoking is not legal in “areas directly or indirectly under the control of the proprietor immediately adjacent to locations of ingress or egress to the public place or place of employment.” However, we have all walked near the Science and Engineering Library. Students, faculty and staff alike still smoke there, regardless of the fact that it’s a clear violation of the 2007 law. In addition, not only do they still smoke there, but there is no enforcement of the law. If the university does not enforce a state law, a university policy certainly will not be enforced. If it is enforced, it will require resources. It would be ill-advised for the university to divert public safety resources to enforcing this policy instead of protecting students in a time when our crime rate is so high. As well, should the policy be enforced, students will be sent to the Office of Student Conduct. The university should not be in the business of punishing students for an addiction. Finally, this is a tobacco-free policy, which includes dipping tobacco. It would create an unfortunate culture if the university police have to search students because they are suspected to be carrying something as innocent as dipping tobacco.
Our campus is about 1,765 acres. With the enacting of the tobacco-free policy, people will not magically stop smoking. Instead, they will walk to the edges of our large campus, particularly the east side of High Street and the north side of Lane Avenue. They will then proceed to smoke, and discard their cigarette butts on those streets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 25 percent of adults in Ohio smoke. Given that there are about 80,000 faculty, staff and students on campus at one time, that theoretically means about 20,000 smokers will create a compact smoker’s haven off campus instead of being spread out across our large campus. Ohio State has also taken strides to be an environmentally conscious campus, yet with this policy we will see much litter off campus.
Second-hand smoke is dangerous. Although this policy will only move second-hand smoke off campus and concentrate it in a small area, it does not address those who actually use tobacco. The proposed policy mentions that, “The university is committed to supporting all faculty, staff and students who wish to stop using tobacco products,” yet provides no additional resources for smoking cessation programs than the minimal ones already found for students through the Student Wellness Center. If Ohio State were serious about helping students quit smoking, they would not enact a tobacco-free policy – that gives the illusion of creating a healthier campus for good publicity – but rather would devote more resources to helping faculty, staff and students actually quit smoking. The university has a laudable goal of creating a tobacco-free campus, but the only way to create that is by helping people to quit smoking, something this policy does not address satisfactorily.
Those who smoke are putting their lives in danger and should be given help to quit if they so wish. However, this country was founded on principles that while the majority rules, the rights of the minority should not be infringed. Ohio State often talks about being a diverse campus that respects all people, regardless of race, sex, creed or life choices. We are a vibrant university that fosters and encourages many diverging opinions to be shared. The university has a record of protecting the rights of the minority, and we should not begin infringing on them here. The rights of smokers should not be infringed; it is their personal choice, and while we should help them quit if they wish, we must respect the choice they make. Former President Thomas Jefferson said, “Though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.” It is my hope that though the university’s will is rightful, that they will be reasonable, and that the minority of students who choose to smoke will still possess their equal rights.

Bobby Seitz
First-year in engineering and economics

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