Met with little formal opposition by student smokers when initially proposed, MSU’s transition to a “Tobacco Free Campus” has been fairly successful in keeping campus free of cigarette butts. However, indifferent smokers are still a regular sight across the Mall, especially around dorm parking lots and the corners between buildings. The policy against smoking seems geared more for enforcement by and around the Residence Halls than campus as a whole.
After getting caught smoking outside the dorms, I was sent to a conduct meeting at the Dean of Students Office. While the first concrete offense is penalized only by conduct probation, the second is punished by 10 hours of community service.
Sympathetic to my disagreements with the ban, the conduct officer quoted C.S. Lewis: “of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.” During the meeting we discussed my feelings toward the polic, its administrative rational, and its practicality.
By no means is smoking healthy, and those who wish to avoid secondhand smoke have every right to do so. Those who choose to smoke, however, still have a right to do so as long it doesn’t affect others. A ban outside classrooms or the SUB, and even across the mall, makes more sense than banning smoking within any practical proximity to residence halls. There are areas around every residence hall where smoking havens could become regular points of social congregation, away from the buildings and dorms but not as far from the Hedges as Lincoln St.
Ultimately, this change would create less tension between administration and smokers and discourage smoking immediately around facilities or in high traffic areas.
The smokers’ voice has been oddly quiet during the adjustment period to the new policy, allowing a heavy enforcement policy and little to no progress toward reducing the totalitarian restriction zone. No attempts have been made to create smoking zones and the primary push has been to strong-arm smokers into quitting rather than encourage a more courteous and environmentally aware smoking culture. By trying to force smokers to quit in this way, the university over-mandates students’ health and ultimately their freedom to choose for themselves. Treating students at the dawn of their adult life as if they are incapable of making decisions on their own is counter to fostering the maturity college is meant to.
Working together, students and administrators could create a campus culture where students who choose to smoke can, and smokers choose to be conscious of others and keep campus clean. The noxious scent of a half-burned Camel is easily reduced with just a slight distance. The litter of cigarette butts can be easily prevented by a considerate smoker. Don’t be that guy, pick up your butts.