Opinion: The smoking ban only works with compromise

nicholas hunter headshot

nicholas hunter headshot

Nicholas Hunter

As someone who has had breathing problems my entire life — and had a double-lung transplant back in 2016 — I would certainly love a smoke-free campus.

On July 1, Kent State begins its “smoke-free, tobacco-free” policy, banning all forms of smoking and tobacco use on its campus grounds.

Kent State will be the 26th public university to become a smoke-free campus, which is largely a result of pressure on Ohio schools by the Ohio Department of Higher Education over the past several years.

On the surface, this is a noble cause; a substantial majority of students KentWired polled are in favor of the ban and having cleaner air on campus will only improve daily life for the average student.

But it gets a bit more complicated once you think about the details of the plan.

First, with minimal punishments for students caught smoking and no way to punish visitors on campus, the rule feels pretty flimsy. There will be no increased security presence to enforce it, either.

It almost feels like it’s being done for show.

With lots of fanfare but little effort to advertise details of the policy, it only adds to that feeling.

The problem with the lack of enforcement is pretty clear: Nobody will follow the new policy.

Students against the ban have plenty of reason to oppose this new policy.

Some smoking students are upset because they are being pushed by the university to quit. While new cessation programs are being offered to help students quit, they don’t always work for everybody.

Other students, both smokers and non-smokers, see this as an issue of civil rights. Should the university be allowed to tell students they cannot do something that is perfectly legal?

These are all legitimate issues with the new policy. A negative attitude toward the policy, mixed with little being done to enforce it, will certainly lead to people blatantly breaking the new rules.

The answer, it seems, would be to find a middle ground.

While it would not technically make the campus smoke-free, providing designated smoking areas — out of the way from walking paths and streets — that are within easy walking distance of high-traffic areas.

This, coupled with an extensive cessation program and greater advertising for those programs, would lead to more cooperation with student policy.

Changing the policy to add smoking sections would eliminate the public moral victory the university is now claiming, so there is little chance this compromise will end up happening.

Unfortunately, without an attempt at compromise, there’s little chance this policy will have any long-term legs to stand on.

But smokers cannot be waved off as immoral and in need of saving by this new policy. Addiction is real and can be a seemingly insurmountable obstacle for many.

There needs to be consideration for all sides of this issue. It’s just as much someone’s right to smoke as it is my right to not breathe it in.

Nicholas Hunter is the opinion editor, contact him at [email protected].