University should not butt-out smoking

Though health is always a concern for college students, a recent push to make UW-Whitewater a smoke-free campus is a little unreasonable and unrealistic.

Graphic by Seth Anderson

Last fall, students began informally meeting to collect information on making UW-Whitewater a smoke-free campus.

Though these students efforts are a valiant effort to make UW-Whitewater a healthier place, having a smoke-free campus would not work and should not be implemented.

According to ABC News, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health determined approximately one-third of college students nationwide use tobacco products.

Creating a smoke-free campus is not nearly as simple as telling students who smoke tobacco products they cannot smoke on campus.  There are various issues that must be taken into account.

Historically, prohibition on any level has never truly worked.

Take for example alcohol prohibition in the United States during the early 20th century.

With the prohibition of alcohol came the rise of secret bars, illegal manufacturing of alcohol and even a rise in organized crime.  Though illegal, many continued to produce, transport and consume alcohol regardless of potential consequences.

Even today, limits on alcohol are evident.  Though the age for legal consumption in Wisconsin is 21, students under the legal age are still consuming alcohol, as proven by the numerous police reports for underage consumption.

If the law isn’t keeping underage students from drinking, it is unrealistic to believe legislation will keep smokers from smoking on campus.

If a smoking ban were in place, there would also need to be some sort of punishment to keep students from smoking on campus.  However, it is unrealistic to believe campus police services would ticket every student with a lit cigarette in their hand.

This is simply wasting the university’s time and resources to enforce a rule many won’t follow.

Though some students might take offense to the smell of cigarette smoke and the health hazards associated with second-hand smoke, smokers have rights as well.

Smoking leads to nicotine addiction and like some students might feel they need their coffee or caffeine in the morning, smokers feel they need their nicotine fix.

It is also unreasonable to tell smokers they must either wait until they are finished with classes for the day or walk off campus to fulfill the needs of their addiction.

While smokers were upset when smoking in bars was banned last summer, they were willing to compromise and leave the bar for a cigarette.

As a result, many bar owners were also willing to compromise, creating a patio or designated outdoor smoking area where smokers could legally take their drinks outside and enjoy their tobacco products.

Even on the UW-Whitewater campus many smokers have willingly made concessions in the past.

Currently, most smokers are respectful of the ban against smoking within 25 feet of a building entrance.

It is not unreasonable to think smokers might be willing to compromise again to find a solution that keeps both sides of the tobacco debate content.

One possible solution could be to create several designated smoking areas on campus, away from heavy traffic areas, yet within a reasonable distance of buildings classes are held in.

We must realize, though, banning smoking on campus is a valiant and applaudable effort by students concerned for their own health and others.

But a smoking ban would be unreasonable and result in a waste of university resources and services.