Editorial: Campus smoking ban infringes on student rights

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Editorial: Campus smoking ban infringes on student rights

Editorial Board

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As universities statewide and within the U of I system continue to implement campus smoking bans, UIS faces a similar fate. If passed, the smoking ban will likely follow suit to UIC and UIUC, prohibiting the use of all tobacco products, including smoking in personal vehicles and e-cigarettes.

As a widely non-smoking Editorial Board, we recognize that an individual’s right to partake in a legal habit, as unhealthy as we may think it is, must be respected.

Yes, cigarette smoking is a health hazard and a bad habit. However, it is a legal one. The consideration for a campus-wide smoking ban on the UIS campus not only infringes on personal liberties but also overreaches administrative authority.

Under the Smoke-Free Illinois Act, effective Jan. 1, 2008, smokers are prohibited from smoking in public places as well as places of employment. This forces them to assemble at least 15 feet away from entrances, exits, windows and ventilation intakes. With the proposed implementation of a campus-wide smoking ban, smokers will have to leave UIS’ 700 plus acres to smoke.  With many students being miles away from home, some without transportation, where are they to go? Will the school suggest they take the next SMTD bus a few miles out to have a smoke? Not to mention staff and faculty members who might not have the time to take off-campus smoke breaks.

Many complain of cigarette butt litter and argue the dangers of secondhand smoke as reasoning for a ban. However, they have yet to put anti-littering laws into place to counteract the butt situation. As for the argument of secondhand smoke dangers, while there is strong evidence that it can be harmful, the majority of studies conducted are of situations indoors. Of those conducted outdoors, as in a 2007 Stanford study, the proximity, length of exposure, confinement and smoker concentration factor into the effects and risk level.

The enforcement of a ban, of course, will be the largest issue at hand, should the ban be passed. Ensuring a 100 percent smoke-free campus will require a larger police presence and disciplinary action of a legal habit. For a period of roughly 13 years, liquor was made illegal during Prohibition. We will point out, however, this lead to the first and only time that a Constitutional Amendment was repealed.

Students, although unfortunate, are not likely to follow a smoking ban on campus, but rather will move their smoking into campus residences. As recently reported by The Journal, some students plan to blatantly ignore the ban. An anonymous source said that they do not necessarily care about the rules, and that they will just find more private ways to get their fix. This is the case amongst many, opting to pay a deep cleaning fee, than have their rights infringed upon.

We believe that if individuals followed the current policies in place on where smoking is acceptable, the need for a smoking ban would be unnecessary.