Opinion: Smoking ban is intrusive

Shawn Mercer

Shawn Mercer

Contact Shawn Mercer at [email protected].

Recently, a campuswide ban on tobacco has been proposed. In my opinion, it is intrusive. Smoking inside a public building violates Ohio law; therefore, a campuswide ban on smoking already exists. This initial smoking ban was meant to mitigate the effects of passive smoking, also known as secondhand smoke. The reasoning behind this ban goes something like this: people have the right to smoke, even if it is a detriment to their health; that right ends when someone else’s health is also affected by their smoking. This seems reasonable enough if you believe secondhand smoke is harmful. Even if the secondhand smoke inside of buildings were not harmful, you could argue that the smoke smells bad, makes you sick, aggravates your asthma, etc.

An outdoor smoking ban makes no sense when considering the above arguments. For one, smoke enters the atmosphere and dilutes rapidly to nonharmful concentrations, so passive smoking is not the issue. The smell issue might be a problem if you are walking directly behind or by someone, but you have the power to stand a little to the left or right to prevent your nostrils from being offended.

The only problem that I can conceive caused by outdoor smoking is littering. It costs money for people to go around and clean up cigarette butts. Ultimately this cost is passed on, in one way or another, to the students. This is a legitimate complaint, but the problem lies in enforcement. If we chose to ban outdoor smoking, we must pay people to go around and enforce the ban by writing tickets or issuing fines. I would assume that most of us do not want, in addition to Parking Services and campus police, yet another enforcement agency having jurisdiction on our campus.

Considering this, smoking is still not the problem; littering is. The current debate that is going on should regard fines for littering, not smoking.

If we chose to focus on littering, then it is no longer solely a problem with smokers. When there are large events at the M.A.C. Center, it is not uncommon to see piles of trash and half-eaten food left behind. It is also conceivable to think of all sorts of trash that has been left around campus by individuals too lazy to pick up after themselves. Blaming the smokers is misplaced, at best.

Finally, students expect to be treated like adults when coming to college. For those who chose to smoke during their high school days, smoking was a matter of concealment and not getting caught. There is a certain shame that comes along with this; I do not believe we should treat people this way after their activity becomes legal when they turn 18. We acknowledge that once people enter the adult world, they should be allowed to go about their day making decisions for themselves. Although I do not consider myself a smoker, it does not make sense to me to treat my peers like children.