Union’s tobacco ban undermines student freedom

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Effective July 1, 2016, Union will become a tobacco free campus. This new policy was created by the appropriately named Smoke/Tobacco Free Committee, which is comprised of both students and faculty on campus. In this initiative, Union joins 70 other colleges and universities in the state of New York who want to ban the use of tobacco.

While I understand the desire by some for Union to be a tobacco free campus, I believe that this policy limits the freedom of the entire student body.

The fact that you can be punished next year for consuming tobacco, a completely legal activity if you are over the age of 18, is absurd, and it is a dangerous path for the school to take.

In the policy itself, Union states that it would like to ban tobacco because, “The College is committed to promoting health, wellness, and prevention within its community, as well as providing a healthy learning and working environment for administration, faculty, staff, students, visitors, contractors, and vendors.”

While having a justification like this is both fair and respectable on the surface, it is clear that this is really not Union’s main aim or interest.

In dining halls on campus, soda machines and nutritionally unhealthy foods can be found. Overconsumption of these drinks and foods can lead to an individual being overweight or obese.

In a study from the National Institutes of Health, the West Virginia Health Statistic Center states: “Obesity and overweight together are the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States… an estimated 300,000 deaths per year are due to the obesity epidemic.”

By having soda and fast-food like meals on campus, Union is definitely not contributing to “health” and “wellness”, especially because overconsumption of these substances can have an extreme impact on an individual’s health and can even lead to death.

Union’s response to this would most likely be that they would find students responsible, thoughtful and independent enough to decide on how many unhealthy meals and drinks to indulge in. What is the difference with tobacco?

It is a complete double standard for Union to ban tobacco but feed its own students food that could potentially harm their health.

If Union were to ban and regulate all substances on campus that could have an impact on the student body’s health, only then would they have a logically coherent argument for trying to promote “health” and “wellness.”

But obviously, that would be a ridiculous and highly limiting policy for the entire student body. However that is the path that Union is taking with banning tobacco use all together on campus.

They do not believe legal adults are responsible or independent enough to smoke and consume a legal substance as they wish. And what is to say that this policy will actually be effective?

Instead of smoking on safe sites on campus (which are at least 30 feet away from dorms so as to prevent second hand smoke) many students will result to smoking inside dorms, which is clearly a large fire hazard, or going off campus to potentially unsafe and dangerous areas to indulge in a completely legal activity (provided one is over the age of 18).

I am not even a tobacco user myself; however, this new policy is just another example of the school overstepping its bounds and limiting the freedom of the student all together, which I find very threatening and unethical as an individual in the Union community.

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