Sparking Some Concerns

Cartoon By Julie Gundersen

On any given day, especially as the weather gets nicer, the Humanities Concourse is filled with people smoking — to the chagrin of some campus members. Our campus could look very different come 2014 if the SUNY-wide smoking ban is adopted.

On our campus, smoking is currently prohibited in all buildings; SUNY motor vehicles; within 50 feet of building entrances and open windows; exterior stairwells; and any building roofs. The system-wide ban would be enacted on 64 SUNY campuses, and would affect 468,000 students and 88,000 employees.

President Donald Christian said New Paltz won’t declare itself a smoke-free campus until the SUNY-wide ban is adopted. He believes there are more realistic and practical ways of combating smoking — ways that don’t create more rules and regulations that people actively disobey.

We at The New Paltz Oracle believe that while this smoking ban has good intentions, it is not the correct or practical way of cultivating a healthier campus.

The fact that so many people will be affected by the ban raises questions about the ability of the university to implement the policy and university police to enforce. If cops approach a smoker on campus, how can they actually enforce the policy? Will UPD be constantly patrolling the quads and concourses? Will they be able to forcibly remove the cigarette from the person’s mouth? Can they arrest the rule breaker? Would there be another two-strike policy for students, faculty and staff found smoking on campus? It’s virtually impossible for this policy to be enforced.

Some SUNY campuses such as Buffalo State and University of Buffalo have already adopted this tobacco-free policy. However, according to the Buffalo State Record, the enforcement of these policies has been “mild” with students and faculty openly smoking on campus with no repercussions.

President Christian also said the policy could raise potential safety concerns. For example, what if a student wants to smoke late at night? Are we going to force them to walk to the outskirts of campus — potentially putting themselves at risk — just so they can adhere to this policy? This concern is not unfounded in light of the SUNY New Paltz’s 2011 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, which showed a 30 percent increase in total “forcible sexual offenses” with four offensives in 2009 to 12 in 2011.

Undoubtedly, this policy will be met with resistance from smokers and rightfully so. While second-hand smoke is dangerous to non-smokers, it’s a personal choice and when larger entities try to restrict civil liberties, it’s not a good thing. However, when you smoke on campus, you are not just affecting yourself and that should be taken into account. Respect the 50-foot rule and the wishes of your fellow campus community members.

We are all aware of how harmful smoking is, but there are more practical and less intrusive ways to promote healthy behavior. For example, the administration could make a larger effort to educate the campus about the dangers of smoking. Another option would be to set up channels through the school to help people quit smoking.

Banning smoking on campus will not change anything because those who want to smoke will continue to do so — they’ll just take their business off campus. We understand that the ban is an attempt to promote public safety and a healthier lifestyle, but it’s also imposing on certain freedoms that smokers are entitled to. While smokers should respect those around them, the SUNY system should also respect the choices of those who make up the 64 campuses throughout New York State.