Letter to the Editor: Creating a Culture of Health and Respect
Editor’s note: This is a response to a Jan. 24 staff column by Tor Gudmundsson.
The tobacco-free policy at Montana State was implemented in order to create a healthier
environment on campus. Although the policy circumstantially discourages smoking by making
it inconvenient, it was not created with the intent of forcing anyone to quit; this policy is first
and foremost an effort to make campus a healthier place.
One major student concern before the policy was enacted was secondhand smoke exposure on campus — this was especially important in the dorms, as many residents were forced to walk through clouds of smoke in order to enter their own living space.
Montana law states that the right to breathe clean air has priority over the right of a smoker to use tobacco in a public area. This does not mean the Montana government is trying to make tobacco use illegal for any adult. A ban on tobacco products on campus is not an infringement of rights.
The policy is heavily enforced near the residence halls because the RAs know their
residents, putting them in a position to hold policy violators accountable. According to the
Student Code of Conduct, a person using tobacco anywhere on campus will be referred to the
Dean of Students Office, just like a student who is drinking, streaking or doing any number of
things we all know are not acceptable on campus. The tobacco policy is not a violation of personal rights, any more than an open container policy or public decency law.
Following the policy is about respect for the health of others and for the university. The university’s goal is to create a culture of respect for nonsmokers and smokers alike on campus. The tobacco-free policy does not take away choice; it merely makes it obvious which campus members are not capable of respecting their fellow community members.