Tobacco ban ignores rights of Facilities and Dining Services workers, will affect morale

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Union College, in its never ending quest to create a clean public image, has outlawed the use of tobacco products on campus effective July 1. This policy change has caused widespread indifference amongst the student body.

“Union College- a tobacco free campus” looks good on a website or a brochure. This policy change has been put in place by the few in charge and will do much more harm than good. It will hurt the campus community as a whole, and only fuels the opinion on campus that Union’s policy changes do not reflect the feelings of the student body, or its staff.

From any logical opinion in the spirit of civic well-being, this is an excellent move by the college. Nobody can argue that something addictive, life threatening and smelly is a good thing. Union has even offered cessation programs to anyone who will need to ween themselves off the nicotine devil by the first of July. This is great to eradicate a habit which is both unhealthy and publicly frowned upon.

After all, the CDC states that the mortality rate for nicotine users is three times as high as non nicotine users. How someone who smokes can die three times is beyond me, but it makes a good statistic. They even say on their webpage that “Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable cause of death in the United States.”

But tobacco is still legal, and marijuana is still a Schedule 1 controlled substance on the same level as heroin. Go figure. What comes with a no smoking policy? Will banning the use of tobacco products even be effective in eliminating the dredge of nicotine on campus?

Everyone with a PhD in public perception knows that prohibition is the best route to come out on top in any sticky situation. See no evil, speak no evil. The image of health is upheld.

But at what cost? Make no mistake: there is a significant population on this campus who will be affected for the worse by the policy change. These are the people who keep Union clean, running, fed and safe. Along with the students, the good people of facilities, dining hall members and keepers of the grounds at Union will be doing something illegal when they smoke after July 1.

Many members of the staff at Union take solace in a cigarette break. After cleaning the mindless student mess from the dorms and buildings, many of them take their break outside, talking with coworkers and students passing by in the relaxed mindset of idleness. Now all of this changes. I’m sure that many will not use Union’s cessation programs to quit the habit.

They will continue to smoke, and will still need a break on campus. But rather than doing it legally – outside, next to a smokebutt receptical – it will be in shamed paranoid secrecy. The nooks and crannies of Old Union which were once only used for late night marijuana partaking will now be the gathering place of the followers of the nicotine devil.

According to one of Dean Leavitt’s 1-Question surveys that went out to the student body last year, only 22 percent of the student body voted that smoking on campus should be banned entirely.

It’s in all of our email archives. See results from the Dean’s survey below:

“Smoking at Union should be…

  • Banned 22%
  • In designated areas 29%
  • 25 feet from buildings 30%
  • Allowed anywhere 18%”

The student body doesn’t agree with the policy change, even if none of us care enough to say or do anything (and even if we joined hands around the Nott in protest it would still be irrelevant).

The policy change came from some committee or subcommittee or subcouncil. In the end, prohibition of anything never stops consumption of that product, especially among college students.

No one, even in the highest state of public image denial, would agree that people under the age of 21 don’t drink. Yes, it’s illegal, but everyone does it. The only true crime in the under 21 drinking issue, like the non smoking issue, is getting caught. So comes the paranoid smokers on Union’s campus, continuing the habit but in fear rather than relaxation.

Responsibility comes when the actions you are doing can be seen as legal and accepted by adults. And when adulthood is defined to be 21, you might as well call the horrible antics of binge drinking “childish behavior.”I worked in a restaurant for all of my high school life.

Scrubbing pots and pans, being covered in the unutterable smells of grease and grill smoke and garbage juice…all for the prize of eight dollars an hour.

It was worth it to see the gruff outbursts and camaraderie of the rest of the kitchen staff, who mostly worked 12 hour shifts for not much more wage than me. The cooks and waiters’ break?

It was the cool breeze on the back steps where they got their cigarette. Without this ember of burning tobacco light at the end of the tunnel, I’m sure the whole system would collapse and spiral into chaos. At Union, the parallel between the situations is similar. If the goal of policy change is to improve the campus community as a whole, this policy of tobacco prohibition achieves the opposite.

Facilities workers and dining hall workers and groundskeepers and even campus security members who smoke will be partaking in a now illegal activity on campus. Smokers will feel less welcomed as a whole, and maybe less likely to put effort and pride into their work.

Cleaning up puke on a freshman dorm toilet will be even worse for the janitor who knows that their cigarette break must be taken quickly and quietly with the nervous paranoia of someone doing an illegal activity.

July 1 marks a new age of more shame in a closed society on campus.

For all the drugs known in the world, nicotine is of the most addictive and the most destructive.

If anything should be on the DEA’s controlled substance list, it should be tobacco. But money talks, and it is still legal, and people would keep smoking even if it wasn’t. I’m sure anyone who partakes knows the damage they are doing to their body.

A campus initiative for a clean public image is seen as nothing more than a publicity stunt by most, and does more harm than good for the people who actually keep Union running.

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