Forcing behavior is not the right answer

Last week, an official communication from the university was distributed announcing a new policy regarding smoking on campus as part of Healthy Campus 2010. As stated, the policy will take effect on Jan. 1, permitting smoking only in designated locations.

Although this policy did pass each of the various campus legislatures — though some may argue not overwhelmingly — there are many details that have yet to be filled in.

The biggest omission is the still unchosen locations where smokers will be sequestered. Although this policy has been making the rounds to the undergraduate Student Senate, Faculty Senate, and GSA for nearly a year, the committee to investigate where these locations will be, how many there should be, and if they will be conveniently located and accessible only began to form this month. Additionally, there is no plan for oversight, save the few representatives on the committee, for the final location choices.

Questions are certain to arise: How many smoking locations will there be? Will smokers be inconvenienced by zones that are few and far between, as alluded to in the e-mail that went out to the campus community? With only two weeks of school remaining before the policy goes into effect, it’s unlikely that there will be enough time for the locations to be announced and properly advertised come January.

But despite all of these practical concerns unanswered, a bigger issue is made explicit in the final sentences of the letter: “We hope it will encourage some smokers to quit.” While we support educating students about the health risks associated with smoking, and even issues regarding the effects of smoking on non-smokers and the cleanliness of the campus grounds, we believe this stance is too firm on restricting the liberties of members of the campus community.

While smoking cigarettes may not be the healthiest choice, it is legal and allowable behavior, and our students, staff, and faculty have the right to do so. This policy, as well as the rest of the Healthy Campus 2010 initiatives, should inform, educate, and recommend policies that improve the campus but allow its members their freedom of choice. Right now this policy is only forced behavior and controversial motivations, with little thought to accommodating those who choose to smoke, and currently no informational and educational programs to support it.