Editorial: Campus smoking ban would create more litter

As originally posted here.

USF St. Petersburg will soon join a list of over 530 college campuses across the nation that have gone completely tobacco-free—whether students want it or not.

Last semester, the administration asked Student Government to pass a symbolic resolution in support of the planned smoking ban. SG admirably refused to commit to an endorsement without student support, and instead distributed a survey to students to get their opinions.

The results were somewhat split, but a majority of students supported creating designated smoking areas on campus instead of banning it outright. Students voted about 2-to-1 in support of “no change to policy.”

To be frank, smoking is a disgusting habit. Smoke sticks to people’s clothes, it stains teeth and statistics show it could lead to a number of health problems.

But the fact is, as much as people want to look down on their behavior, smokers are fast becoming second-class citizens. Massive anti-smoking campaigns since the ’60s have bombarded the public about the dangers of smoking. About half of U.S. states, including Florida, have implemented smoking bans in all enclosed public places, and some states, like New York, have banned smoking in all public areas, including parks.

Since police can’t patrol these areas all of the time, states rely on non-smokers to provide a sort of law enforcement. Bullying smokers is not only tolerated, it is encouraged.

Smokingstatistics.org recently cited a New England Journal of Medicine report stating that deaths from coronary heart disease in adults ages 25 to 84 living in the U.S. dropped from 542.9 to 266.8 per 100,000 from 1980 to 2000, postulating that lower tobacco-usage rates are a primary cause. “Smoking, among other factors, contributes to coronary heart disease,” the article said.

But that is a stretch. The point would be stronger if smoking was at least the major contributing factor, not just one of them. As any student who has taken a research class will know, correlation does not necessarily imply causation. That is like saying one of the major causes for littering is cigarette butts, when it is only one of the things people discard on the ground.

In fact, a smoking ban could actually create more litter, since the ban eliminates ashtrays, meaning smokers will throw their butts on the ground when they are told to put them out. This potential problem could also affect the efficiency of custodial operations. Unless USFSP starts offering portable ashtrays, or implements fines in addition to the smoking cessation classes they plan to offer, the solution may be worse than the problem.

The smoking ban also extends to the residence halls, which means that smokers will have to seek living outside of the campus area, or quit their habits. It presents another problem for students who have to rely on financial aid and are not local.

While smoking is not something to be encouraged, students, faculty and staff should not be punished for their habits, nor should they be treated worse than others because of them.

The fact that the administration has chosen to ignore the student voice is troubling. What is to say that it will stop at tobacco-related products? Schools across the nation are opting strictly for “healthy alternatives” and soft drink bans to combat obesity. Are college campuses far behind? Students may soon find their voice has been lost in favor of the school’s collective health.

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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