Thank you for not asking us about smoking

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

The most thorough evaluation of Carnegie Mellon student opinions about smoking in recent years was a 2007 survey administered by Student Senate. Participants were polled in several areas, in addition to answering the overall question: Should we ban smoking at Carnegie Mellon?

Of the survey’s results, two pieces of data pique my interest.

First, more students (45 percent of voters) were in favor of pulling tobacco from Entropy than against (35 percent). Since Carnegie Mellon did pull cigarettes from Entropy in early 2007, it would seem that the administration is doing a good job of listening to students.

However, most students even loosely in the loop as the administration made plans for Entropy’s change know that the plan to remove tobacco products was independent of the survey. What if we had voted against removing cigarettes from Entropy? Would it have mattered?

This might seem pointless, since it turns out the administration’s actions did agree with student opinions, but it matters to me. I think it’s important that student opinions are represented by effort, not coincidence.

My second point of interest in the survey is that 52 percent of students surveyed voted against a campus-wide smoking ban, while 38 percent were in favor of it.

With so many students against a smoking ban, it seems ridiculous that members of the administration continue to talk about it. I’m not saying a smoking ban will never happen, or even that it would be the worst thing in the world, although I think it is unacceptable to push for a policy that 52 percent of students are against.

Thus, smoking ban enthusiasts, I put forth to you a challenge: Convince me.

Give me information that shows that even short-term exposure to secondhand smoking (i.e., standing outside of Baker Hall) is dangerous. I’ve read competing arguments, and would like to see more swaying evidence before I believe that our current campus arrangement poses a threat to non-smokers’ health.

Furthermore, tell me what other colleges are doing and how students there have reacted.

Carnegie Mellon — as Dennis Quaid and Sarah Jessica Parker would attest — is full of smart people. If the argument for a smoking ban is valid, I’m sure 50-plus percent of students, once educated, should agree to it. If you can’t convince us, that probably says something about the idea. In my opinion, it is the burden of those in favor of new legislation to convince us little people that this is what we need.

Currently, the more pertinent campus smoking issue concerns an increase in smoking restrictions. As reported last week in The Tartan, the Healthy Campus 2010 Task Force is pushing to get rid of the 20-feet rule in favor of distinct you-can-smoke-here areas on campus.

Before we do this, I think Carnegie Mellon should work on enforcing the policies we already have. And I’m not alone; 62 percent of students surveyed said students breaking the 20-feet rule should be fined.

As for the proposed switch to restricted-smoking areas, it seems the best next step would be to take a new student survey with questions specific to the plan.