By Debbie Gillum
I am not in favor of the DCGA smoking ban. This proposal, conveniently titled “Clean Air, Healthy Student Resolution,” has been discussed by the Denison Campus Governance Association recently to make the interior of certain areas into “smoke-free zones,” meaning that individuals who wanted to smoke would need to smoke by the back-side of buildings. Smoking in front of buildings facing academic quad would not be permitted. This would apply from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Every year, smoking becomes an issue on campus (the same way race and sexual assault are hot topics once a year), but it is never so much of an issue that something is actually done about it. It’s not that big of a problem. I wrote a similar editorial about this two years ago and I will gladly write another one because my opinion about this has not changed.
Here is the situation: currently, smoking is not permitted inside buildings or within a 25-foot perimeter of buildings. These rules are generally enforced through a “social contract” rather than through interventions by campus staff.
I’ve never observed a fellow student asking a smoker to move to the designated 30 feet away from a building. Maybe we’re all too passive, or maybe it’s not important enough to politely ask someone to move. Instead of a new, stricter smoking ban, why don’t we teach each other how to politely ask one another to move? The new resolution would have security fighting our battles for us.
I wonder if the proponents of this resolution want some larger force to fight their battles and are too afraid to confront smokers in person. While smoker-non-smoker confrontations are rare, what I have observed is smokers chilling outside Higley, off to the side. They don’t block the main entrance, thereby not forcing students to walk by them to get into the building. It’s not a valid argument to say that all smokers block the front entrance of buildings and require non-smokers to inhale second hand smoke. That’s not the problem.
I don’t see the point in passing a formal no-smoking resolution if there will be no formal consequences for those who violate the rule. What’s the point? One could argue that the resolution is only seeking to be passed for the sake of passing. A shiny new resolution will look good for DCGA, while having no measurable or meaningful consequence on students. Does that make it a win-win?
Furthermore, this DCGA smoking ban would not fix the problem of cigarette litter. It isn’t a problem to begin with. We live in a beautiful paradise, and everyone respects it enough to not litter their cigarette butts. Besides, the amount of Natty Lights and red solo cups strewn around campus far outnumber the number of cigarette butts.
If Denison claims to be a community, we should respect the habits of some community members. So what if they smoke? They aren’t forcing non-smokers to smoke or inhale second hand smoke. Smokers on campus are already alienated enough. Only seven percent of college students reported having smoked cigarettes on three or more days of the last 30 days, according to the February 2011 administration of the National College Health Assessment. Let’s let them smoke and respect their choice.
Just because you make a smoking ban doesn’t mean you’re going to stop people from smoking. I don’t see a problem with smoking on campus, and I think it should be allowed anywhere. Smoke on.