COLUMN: Up in smoke

Michael McLaughlinƒ_Ts

Despite the stereotypical description of a liberal and my general adherance to it, I’ve never been particularly fond of regulations that, while obviously well-intentioned, tend to have the double whammy effect of infringing upon a person’s rights while at the same time not even managing to be effective at conducting said infringement.

Which brings me to the point of this article: the pointlessness of certain aspects of the university’s smoking policy, especially in regard to which doors one is allowed to smoke at.

Being a bit of a self-described civil libertarian, I tend to embrace Mill’s argument that the only legitimate reason why a controlling authority should step into one’s personal affairs is to prevent harm to another’s person or property, and that harm to oneself is not justification for such an intervention. To be fully honest, I believe that a smoking policy is acceptable, as second-hand smoke has been definitely proven to cause, at the very least, respiratory problems. Those who are still arguing that it doesn’t are mistaken at best and have vested interests at worst.

However, this doesn’t change the fact that all the regulation in the world doesn’t do a damn bit of good without any enforcement, and that is what’s severely lacking from the university’s policy. Practically every day I see at least one person standing outside the door to my dorm puffing away about five feet from a prominent “No Smoking At This Door” sign, and I have never seen an enforcement official (i.e. a resident assistant or a member of security) busting them. And who can really blame them? They have better things to do than to run around the outside of the dorms being the Clean Air Police.

The truth of the matter is there are two possible solutions to this problem. The first solution involves having stricter enforcement and punishment for those who break the policy. However, while this would give a non-smoker with perpetually aggravated allergies such as myself a bit of almost perverse glee, the simple truth of the matter is the university doesn’t really have the resources to form up a Smoking Gestapo, and if they did they would be better off spending those resources on other programs.

The second solution is a generally unpopular one but one which strikes myself as the right thing to do. Get rid of the policy all together. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t smoke, and I generally think that it’s a pretty damn moronic thing to be doing, equal to drinking nuclear waste on the “dumb things to do list.” (Then again, I think this about a lot of things people my age enjoy so what the hell do I know.) However, putting rules on the books and then not really enforcing them is pointless and does nothing but allow those in power to pat themselves on the back for “solving the problem.”

Either enforce the rules or get rid of them, preferably the latter. This doesn’t really seem particularly complex to me. And at the end of the day either my lungs or my sense of intellectual consistency will thank you.

Michael McLaughlin is a senior history major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].