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Thoughts on Smoke Free Campus

First of all, some corrections and clarifications:

The $800,000 grant that was received from PacificSource was actually received by Paula Staight, the Health Promotion Director at the UO Health Center, and is to be spent over five years. The grant will allow the Health Center to hire one full-time and two part-time employees to work on three aspects of a healthy lifestyle: Food, Movement, and Tobacco (specifically the eradication of). There will be no campus-wide policy attached to the smoking ban (see: you can’t get fined or face disciplinary action for smoking on campus).

General concerns:

Likely because there is not going to be any sort of sweeping campus policy change and there will be no additional costs to students, there seemed to be very little general student involvement this year regarding this policy. (This is also a trend in the Rousseau administration.) In the past, the Smoke Free Task Force has held open forums where students / faculty / staff can voice their concerns, but as is the case with most open forums, when there is no direct policy being critiqued, they draw little audience. It is also important to remember that a large number of people who use this campus are not students. As someone who frequents campus late at night (KWVA, DDS, library, etc.), I’ve noticed that a large portion of the custodial staff are in fact smokers. Granted, this shift will not likely affect them as there is no policy attached to it, but it is important to think about.

The Smoke Free Task Force Report [click for PDF] does provide a number of reasons for instigating a smoke-free campus, but it is important to remember that virtually all data regarding second-hand smoke refers to indoor concentration. I have yet to see any data on cigarette smoke in the ambient air. I’m tempted to refer to automobile exhaust — do people really think that all those carcinogens really stay in the ambient air forever? I’m not referring to atmospheric concerns — those are kind of irrelevant when talking about campus smokers. Someone, please, show me some data.

By moving smokers to the edge of campus, aren’t we going to create a wall of smoke that every student will have to walk through to get to campus? Doesn’t that also create a safety issue? And what about students who live on campus? If you get a craving at 2AM, and you have to walk out of your home (dorm) to smoke, out of DPS jurisdiction over onto Franklin or in the East Campus Neighborhood, how will that affect the student and those who live in that area? If anyone thinks people are going to change their behavior because of a sign and a few dirty looks, they are mistaken. Perhaps in a few years, when there is no institutional memory left, things will be different. For now, kids will be kids, and forcing them to change their lifestyle to something you perceive to be better is kind of overstepping your bounds (I’m talking about all parties involved, here).

A not-smoking-related concern: there is $800,000 going to a movement that has no teeth? Does that seem like a waste of money to anyone else?

Moving on:

This policy will have no affect on smokers on campus as of this date. If kids want to smoke, they will smoke. If someone gives me a dirty look while I’m smoking, I will offer them a cigarette. I do like that student smokers will not be fined for smoking on campus. The biggest concern I had before was that smokers would be treated as second-class students. This new policy still contains that attitude, but in a less official way.

I’m not trying to say that smoking isn’t bad for us — it is. But if I want to go base jumping, or operate a baler, or ride a motorcycle, that is my choice. Do those choices affect other people? Sometimes, yes. But until you have definitive proof that me smoking a cigarette in the ambient air poses a serious health risk to students — or that students can’t walk ten feet away from me — then perhaps the UO Health Center and the ASUO should stay the hell off of my rights — and my lungs.

Extra Credit:

  1. Evan P. Thomas says:

    Good Job Lyzi, but there’s more!

    Secondhand smoke statistics are often presented incredibly poorly. Not juts statistics being presented as universal when they only refer to indoor statistics. They often something like this:

    “157,300 (2010 estimate from national cancer institute) people die from lung cancer each year and 3,000 (EPA estimate) of them are non-smokers. Second-hand smoke increases risk of lung cancer by 20% in non-smokers.”

    A statistic like this sounds horrifying. But it’s easy to break down….

    The CDC estimates 45 million smokers in the United States. There are 300,000,000 Americans. So the number of non-smokers is 255,000,000. Which means the probability of dying of lung cancer (yearly) as a non-smoker is 3,000/(255,000,000) = .0000117 = ~ .001%. A 20% increase in the risk of lung cancer would make this statistic ~.0012%. Which means the effects of second-hand smoke (again, indoors, because I can’t find outdoor statistics either) increase the likelihood of cancer in non-smokers by .0002%. So this is a battle of .0002% prevention against personal choice.

    The reason these statistics are important is because of something called precedence, in regard to law. The anti-smoker folks on campus have recently liked citing supreme court cases and other institutions as evidence in favor of the ban, as “precedence.” However, most of these cases are from either 100 years ago, or are with regard to indoor smoking (which I am also in favor of for free market reasons but that’s a different argument) or restrictions on smoking– not widespread outdoor smoking bans. Where the statistics come into play has to do with calculated risk against relative intrusion of the citizen. Many risk-related laws we have in this country are calculated this way: IE: the relative risk of not wearing your seatbelt enormous in comparison to wearing a seatbelt… relative to a slight inconvenience of putting a strap over your body. This is how risk-related policy is set up in this country. For smoking (especially the second-hand smoke argument), we’re looking at a .0002% increase relative to requiring an addicted person to quit.

    These two comparisons in policy are like night and day. As I told the other Senators, with regard to precedence, I’m incredibly confident that I could cite about 500x more Supreme Court Cases that favor this line of assessment with regard to risk than they could dig up that slightly reflect their smoking ideology.

  2. Lyzi Diamond says:

    Facetious? Maybe.

  3. Amelie says:

    Thanks for fact checking Lyzi; I can always count on you.

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