Retired professor on smoking ban

Brian Kevin Beck, Emeritus Associate Professor, Languages & Literatures

As for a total University ban on smoking, all of the four reasons given (Letter, Nov. 9) are surely “well-meant,” but might also seem suspiciously-“problematic.”  Reasons given not the truer motivations of the ban-enthusiasts.  What might those subtler purposes be? And, can “critical thinking” (a goal of education) help unpack things?

I too am “biased.”  In recent decades on campus, I have sniffed a whiff of smoke or butts only about two or three times.  Thanks to the efficient (hence sufficient) ban within 25 feet of all buildings. (And I do find tobacco smells unsavory indeed.)

Therefore, to say that (#1) “a tobacco-free campus will create a healthier environment for all students, faculty, and staff.” seems basically a stretch to meet an unneeded standard of sanitation.

And yes, (#2) “tobacco in all its forms is dangerous” (Well, who didn’t know?)  But not toxic per se, only when encountered (unless you’re a paranoid mystic or something).

And then, (#3) a total ban “makes the implementation of policy easier for all to understand”?  Well “duh,” are college-university personnel really too dense to grasp basics?  I didn’t have to scratch my head to grasp the 25-foot rule.

But aha, (#4) a ban-environment “provides motivation for tobacco users to get the help they need to quit.” Bingo, the real reason emerges!

I’m not sure that making smokers cross the street to get off-campus in rain or winter to get their fix, is going to help them quit. (It wouldn’t have helped me; when I ceased smoking, it was through a personal commitment necessarily made by myself.)

And note that the letter’s title says smoke-free campus could “help deter bad habits.”  Welcome please,  the real reason. Is it a nasty “liberal” caretaking stance of helping everyone toward responsibility for their own actions, the institution over-motivating the individual etc.? (Objected to by that nasty “conservative” stance against the “sky-is-falling” so-threatening nanny-state Big Government?)

My own “bias-insight” is clearer, at least to myself, and is not necessarily better. Seek a win-win balanced solution!  Achieve goal with “style” in the sense of suave “attainment and restraint” Thus, get to goal but then stop there–fine-tune the regulations.  (Hmm, what with those pebbles of wisdom, maybe a good thing I retired, eh? For, “Hot Air” can also pollute classrooms.)

And indeed, this tempest in a teapot (er, ashtray—or the efficient butt-depositors outside buildings) is not all that momentous.  (Decades earlier, yes, smoking even in classrooms was permitted—who knew, indeed?—and then banned in a vital first step.)

So, the thinking-point or gist here is that almost every daily event is grist for the mill of better critical thinking about it and other issues.  Even or especially if we differ!  “Know thyself,” etc. And “healthier” thinking itself, is supposedly—above the smoke-and-mist swirls of specifics—a key goal of education.  Over the entire campus indeed.