Kicking Cigarettes in the Butt

It’s official: The #1 party school in the country just made its campus tobacco-free. Syracuse University (ranked the top party school by Princeton Review for 2015) recently joined a movement of colleges across the country to ban tobacco products: both smoking and smokeless, including E-cigarettes. According to its website, Syracuse did so “to promote a safe and healthful work environment…encourage tobacco users to reduce or eliminate their consumption, and to protect nonsmokers from exposure to tobacco smoke.” The idea of eliminating tobacco from college campuses is not a new one, but recently it has really begun to take flight. According to no-smoke.org as of July, 2015, there are 1,577 smoke-free campuses, 1,079 of which are completely tobacco-free. I am surprised that Conn has yet to join this trend.

Smoking is obviously a health hazard both to those engaging in it and to those who fall subject to its effects by way of secondhand smoke. As we have known for several years, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. The derivative consequences, however, extend beyond the health effects secondhand smoke.

Smoking creates an image problem, especially on a college campus. As prospective students tour our beautiful school, they often find themselves walking through clouds of smoke. Conversely, they could walk through the campus of a school like Syracuse, and find that the air was clear and their experience was not tainted by the cigarette smoke they inhaled passing the library. Although it seems like a minor detail, this difference could influence a student’s perception of our campus’ health and wellness.

As a school with an outstanding sustainability program, it is only logical that we also target the toxic fumes that are released into the air with every exhalation of a cigarette. The fumes affect not only other people but also the environment. We take great pride in the College’s reduced environmental footprint, yet our smoking policies do not reflect this whatsoever. The only policy we have regarding smoking reads: “Given the documented risk of secondhand smoke, smoking is prohibited inside all College buildings. It is also prohibited within 20 feet of all College building exterior doorways.” I find it hypocritical that we place so much emphasis on our school’s environment, yet there are not even designated smoking areas: as long as you’re not inside or within 20 feet of a building, you’re good.

Smoking cigarettes has gained a substantial stigma during the past decade, thanks to endless advertisements saying that a pack of cigarettes will not only cost you an absurd amount of money but also “your smooth skin” or “your teeth.” Despite the negative publicity and the common knowledge that tobacco products lead to a plethora of diseases, cancers and health complications, they appear to be making a comeback. When I returned to campus this year, one of the first things I noticed was an apparent increase in student smokers. Whether this is due to a habit picked up while studying abroad or an overall resurgence in cigarette smoking, I found that several other nonsmokers had similar observations.

In order to stop this trend in its tracks, a drastic policy change needs to occur. Conn is an extraordinarily progressive school in our environmental policies, our nuanced curriculum and our application process. We are also a school in which faculty and staff care deeply about the health and wellbeing of all students. The Green Dot program and our Student Health and free Counseling services illustrate our devotion to the prevention of serious physical and mental health issues. However, smoking, which has been deemed deadly, has received almost no attention. I truly believe that if Conn joined the tobacco-less campus trend, we would become more desirable to prospective students and their families, as well as be safer for those already here.

Several questions may arise from what I have proposed. What would a tobacco-free campus look like for smokers and nonsmokers alike? How would the policy be enforced? Don’t people have a right to smoke where and when they like?

The policy would definitely be transformative in that it would encourage current smokers to quit and discourage future smokers from picking up the habit. There are several resources provided by the Health and Wellness Center, according to Mary DeBriae, who represents Health and Wellness for Faculty and Staff. DeBriae said these include, “a benefit through our prescription drug provider for smoking cessation nicotine replacement therapy products (patch, gum, inhaler, etc.).” The Center also offers smoking cessation assistance. If Conn were to become tobacco-free, these resources would need to be offered more publically to smokers looking to quit.

As far as enforcement, a tobacco-free campus should be treated the same way we treat underage drinking. If someone is caught smoking, it should be left to the discretion of Housefellows and Floor Governors to either report an incident to Campus Safety or issue a warning. House staff would require extra training and information in the realm of smoking in order to prepare themselves for this policy change. Additionally, classes in smoking cessation would need to be readily accessible, and the management of individual situations should take into account the seriousness of nicotine addiction.

I am fully aware of the severity of nicotine addiction and do not expect that this policy would cause all smokers to quit. I am also aware that not every smoker has the desire to quit. Becoming a tobacco-free campus would not require that all smokers stop smoking, rather that they do so in a manner that does not affect their fellow Camels. In my opinion, Conn has done an excellent job in addressing sexual violence, mental health issues and alcohol and drug abuse. now it is time for us to address one of the most obvious, deadly and ignored health threats: tobacco. •