Last week, the Committee on College Life (CCL) voted to implement a campus-wide smoking ban by July 2015. The vote followed a recent student survey administered by CCL, which concluded that 55 percent of students oppose the ban, while 45 percent support it.
While we at the Miscellany News understand that the majority of students did not want a ban, we view the College’s push to ban smoking as preempting possible future federal legislation requiring all public and private colleges to ban smoking on campus. However, we were disappointed by the top-down approach of the initiative and would have appreciated further communication with the students, faculty and staff. Lastly, we believe it will be imperative for the College to provide free smoking cessation programs and materials.
It remains unclear why the College would rush to enact a smoking ban to preempt state legislation, when it is not clear that any such state-wide legislation is imminent. Does the administration wish to stop individual students and faculty from personally choosing to smoke, or protect nonsmokers from the consequences of secondhand smoke? If the motivation was personal health, then a campus-wide ban makes sense.
But if the ban is designed only to prevent second-hand smoking, the College could pursue more reasonable means. Designating certain zones for smoking would minimize its second-hand effects while allowing students and staff to smoke without venturing entirely off-campus. A complete ban without outlets for current smokers would be difficult to enforce, and may result of the dangerous consequence of increased indoor smoking. The College should give smokers options.
It is also important to note that by forbidding smoking as a personal choice, the College is taking an ideological stance. This is not unlike the decision to ban disposable, plastic water bottles on campus, which was enacted in 2012. However, the Tap That campaign to ban water bottles, which was spearheaded by the Greens, was entirely student led. In the case of a smoking ban, the momentum came from high-level College administrators who brought the proposal to the CCL. It is disheartening that the College would solicit an endorsement from the CCL as a show of student support when the data reflects that student opinion is opposed to a ban. In the future, it is our hope that such wide scale campus initiatives will grow from the bottom-up, not the top-down.
A survey conducted by the VSA last year asked: “Should smoking be prohibited on Vassar College property?” 65.3 percent of students voted no, while 34.7 percent voted yes. Due to its inevitability, it seems that the College was bound to pass such a ban regardless of student opinion. A survey conducted by the VSA last year found that 65.3 opposed banning smoking on Vassar property while 34.7 were in favor. Rather than administering surveys us on whether or not we support the ban, the College should have solicited our opinion on how to implement the already decided upon ban, fostering a sense of transparency and inclusivity.
If, and likely when, the College enacts the smoking ban, the College must also provide current on-campus smokers—faculty and students alike—with readily accessible, free cessation programs and nicotine patches. Though the ban will happen gradually, helping ease the transition for current smokers, this is not enough. Already, In the Pink runs such programs every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. However, there is a fee of $10 to cover the cost of nicotine patches. If the College decides to ban smoking, these programs must become free and easily accessible to all students, faculty and staff. The cost for subsidizing this program will come indirectly from students, but ensuring compliance with a ban as contentious as this requires such support. In addition, we hope that the Office of Health Education will consider taking on initiatives which prevent students from starting smoking while at Vassar.
Ultimately, we at the Miscellany News recognize that the eventual implementation of a campus-wide smoking ban was probably inevitable. However, the way in which the vote by the CCL came as a result of the actions by administration, rather than community, gives us pause. Furthermore, we urge the College to eliminate the fee for smoking cessation programs in order to make compliance with the ban as easy as possible. Lastly, we hope that the process of implementing the ban will reflect a community-oriented approach, wherein students, faculty and staff are included in meaningful dialogue.
—The Staff Editorial represents the opinion of at least 2/3 of the seventeen member Editorial Board.