by Danielle Crume
ARTICLE UPDATED, May 19, 2013; See bottom
A UC campus-wide smoking ban has been passed in which all campuses will be tobacco-free by 2014. On September 1st, 2013, the UCSD campus will implement a smoke-free policy prohibiting the use and sale of tobacco products, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and electronic “e”-cigarettes. Proponents of the ban advocate their cause under the guise of improving the health of students and faculty members, but in doing so they implement yet another example of invasive government measures restricting personal rights.
If UC officials are truly concerned about the effects of smoking and secondhand smoke, it seems absurd that they would ban e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Both are smokeless, the former producing vaporized nicotine without the carcinogenic additives present in traditional cigarettes.* This electronic alternative could be considered an unofficial quitting method, as it delivers the nicotine that smokers crave without tar and hazardous chemicals. Unlike a nicotine patch or gum, its resemblance to a cigarette allows users to mimic smoking; the habitual act in itself drives part of the psychological addiction, as it provides a sense of comfort and ease. Thus, banning a possible means to quit is counterproductive to the University’s goals for a healthier campus.
It appears that the UC committee responsible for the policy possesses an ulterior motive; state schools pander to the overbearing government that funds their existence, wanting to demonstrate “leadership” in “healthcare and environmental and practices”. Like recent measures against obesity, anti-smoking is another politically correct trend the nanny state has propagated throughout society using expensive advertising campaigns and scare tactics to enforce what it deems beneficial for individuals.
In implementing what is “beneficial,” the state invasively seeks to influence personal behavior, stripping people of their right to lifestyle choices. Because smoking is considered wrong and a health risk, the policy identifies “college years…as a time of increased risk for smoking initiation” and uses this as a rationale for prohibiting adults to consciously indulge in a legal substance. The policy acknowledges its intruding and manipulative actions; such aforementioned rationale is listed under a section called “Smoke-free Policies Change Behavior.” This statist mentality removes individual accountability and portrays people as mindless, easily impressionable victims of corporate tobacco influence. Smokers know that their actions are dangerous, as do rock climbers and firemen, but they still choose smoking because they, like the other examples, enjoy their activity. They have every right to do so. Opponents argue, however, that smoking affects others and the environment. In that case, policy should be more accommodating rather than punitive against it. As with the prevention of normal litter, cigarette butt receptacles should be widespread and perhaps placed near trash cans. Campuses can have clearly designated, accessible smoking areas while having the right to rebuke smokers when they are not within that area.
Even Associated Students has expressed its concerns. Recently, it issued a resolution to reform the policy. The resolution cites that during the last fiscal year, the General Store made fifty-two percent of its profit through the sale of tobacco products, and will consequently suffer under the ban. Since it sells vital student materials under market value, the General Store makes up for the monetary loss through selling cigarettes, and thus may face bankruptcy and a forcible shut down when the ban becomes effective. If the General Store has to be “bailed out,” this comes at the expense of students. Secondly, the resolution notes that the smoke-free policy debuted after students made their on-campus housing deposits for the 2013-2014 school year. AS insists that Housing, Dining and Hospitality should refund smokers who want to withdraw from their housing contract
Pragmatically, the enforcement of the new measures will probably mean little to smokers. Many already disregard the current measures, where they must remain 25 feet away from buildings and cannot smoke at all on the medical school campus. If punitive measures become extreme, a “black market” for tobacco could occur, in the manner of the War on Drugs or the Prohibition, where environmentally harmful practices arise. Perhaps it is their right to disobey such nonsensical measures, where it only serves to impede their personal rights. During these college years, where one is encouraged to be free-thinking individuals, it seems absurd that there are rules dictating how to lead one’s life.
*Article Update Description: This sentence originally read, “Both are smokeless, the former producing water-based, vaporized nicotine without the carcinogenic additives present in traditional cigarettes.” In fact, the vapor is produced by the vaporization of liquid Propylene Glycol, vegetable Glycerine, and/or Polyethylene Glycol. These chemicals have a low toxicity in humans: the first classified by the FDA as “generally recognized as safe” as a food additive; the second is used as a sweetener, preservative, and solvent in foods; and the third is a component of toothpastes, skin creams, and many other commercial products.