Union’s ban on tobacco is merely an attempt to improve campus image


This year’s ban on smoking has been met with very mixed reactions from the students and faculty of Union. Some see it as a positive message, promoting a healthier lifestyle.

Others see it as a firm indictment of our very rights as adults. The first fact that must be stated is that it is fully in the school’s rights to ban tobacco use on campus.

Many indignant students see the ban as an ethically unfair prohibition of rights.This is not true – as a private institution, Union holds the right to ban something it deems offensive.

The larger problem lies with the reasoning behind the ban. I should make it clear early on that I am firmly against the new rule, but not because it violates our rights as students.

Rather, I find the reasoning and execution of the ban as unsavory. The reasoning behind the schools prohibition of tobacco use is reported as being a promotion of a healthy campus.

However, the way the administration has gone about the process has made it seem otherwise.

The ban on tobacco on this campus appears to be more for the public image of the school than for anything else.

For the school to ban tobacco on the grounds of health is inadequate considering the circumstances.

Firstly, in the past, the administration has done little to advocate for the student’s health. One simply needs to look at the meals in Reamer to see this.

A student with all meal swipes would be greeted by cheap food and few truly healthy options.

The situation in Dutch is even worse.

In the same way college smoking prepares a student for lung cancer later in life, unhealthy food options prepares him or her for heart disease.

Second, the ban on tobacco use is a very quick and seemingly decisive move.

Rather than incrementally slowing the acceptance of tobacco use, the school has made the decision to ban it altogether.

For the administration to truly be promoting a smoke-free campus without blindsiding the students, there should have been an extension on the distance from buildings and a ceassation of the sale of lighters in the bookstore, just to name a few examples.

While it is true that the announcement was made earlier this year, it still seemed to come out of left field and to be unfair.

Another problem is that the ban is blatantly insulting to those of us who use these products.

While it is no secret that tobacco use has gained quite a stigma in the last few years, and rightfully so, it is not fair to treat the users as addicts who would be doomed without outside help.

The clearest example of this is the suggested actions to the students facing this new policy. While there is nothing at all wrong with promoting a healthy campus through informational sessions and talks, the offer of gum and nicotine patches jams in the idea that all smokers are in need of assistance before the ban goes into effect.

In my experience, the tobacco users on campus are not addicts smoking a pack a day.

Rather, tobacco use is usually limited to parties (more specifically, waiting in line for these parties).

Of course this can be a slippery slope, as all addictions start somewhere, but it shows that the school believes this to be a more extreme problem than it true is.

The ban of tobacco use on campus generally furthers the already widespread idea that there is a large disconnect between the administration and the student body.

While some students certainly have strong opinions either way, the school is insinuating the idea that this ban is a widely demanded action.

The promotion of a healthy campus does not mean banning the things the administration deems unpleasant.

Rather, it is working with the students to find a solution that suits all parties involved.

This means the smokers and non-smokers alike.

Clearly, this is an opinion piece, and I am certain not all readers will agree with said beliefs, but I would be remiss not to voice them.

While I have the impression that this rule will be more of a brown bag over a bottle of liquor situation, it points to larger problems with the actions of the administration as a whole.


  1. This opinion articles borders on the absurd…I don’t even know where to begin. I guess that I’ll first say that I was a student on the committee that began considering the ban starting in possibly spring or fall 2013, I can’t remember exactly, so I do have a bit of an idea about the “behind the scenes” thinking.

    “Firstly, in the past, the administration has done little to advocate for the student’s health. One simply needs to look at the meals in Reamer to see this.”

    Really? First, it is not a “simple” action to look at meal offerings and then draw a broad conclusion that the administration “has done little to advocate for the student’s health.” Would you consider the the College’s multi-million dollar investments in the Wellness Center and other athletic facilities to be “little”? The increase in the number of available appointments for both physical and mental health? Accessibility to sports therapists and dietitians who can make students custom health plans? The countless events encouraging students to make use of these resources? How about the College’s funding of intramural athletics? The continuous programs hosted by residence life staff (regardless of poor attendance)?

    Back to food, attempting to claim hypocrisy by drawing parallels between cigarettes and unhealthy food is also unreasonable. While cigarettes are widely acknowledged to have serious negative health effects even in moderation, most unhealthy foods can be consumed in moderation with limited negative health effects. Additionally, your comment that a student with only swipes is met by “cheap and few truly healthy items” seems a little unreasonable. I guess you’re just disregarding the vegetarian options, the salad bar, and the daily entrees that almost always include a “clean” option, etc. Not to mention that “cheap” does not equal unhealthy. I’m not saying Union’s dining is the peak of healthy dining programs, but I think you’re being dramatic. Since I was a student, the College has come a long way with offering more healthy options. If you have more specific ideas, the people in dining services are actually very receptive. Alternatively, go to a Student Forum meeting to try and drum up support.

    Moving onto the way this was implemented. As I said, I believe that P. Ainlay called the first committee on this beginning in Spring or Fall 2013. Calls for student input and the times of these meetings were sent via campus email and student government was involved. Of course, there was no response from students because it’s much easier to react angrily after the change than to be involved in the planning process. Of course, you’ve also left out the implementation of designated smoking areas a few years ago, the placement of butt receptacles in these areas, the adoption of the entrance/exit rule, etc. This is not something that just happened…recognize that you’re a student and have only been at Union since 2013. There is a long precedent from before you were around to know.

    And FINALLY, maybe the most ridiculous and incredibly short-sighted claim in this article is your conclusion to be “insulted” because the College’s offering of gum and patches must obviously mean the Administration is out-of-touch and is overestimating the use of tobacco. NO. The College annually sends the Core Institute survey to students, which is the largest national drug and substance use survey in higher education. Hundreds of colleges administer this survey. It’s probably the #1 or #2 survey that the College hounds you to take each year and actually reaches a very large number of students. So not only does the administration have a very good idea of how students are using substances, but it also knows how Union compares to hundreds of other universities. Plus, it’s not like the senior staff doesn’t know how young people use tobacco recreationally…believe it or not, they were also college students once and probably have college-aged children at home.

    The College offers these options because it would be unreasonable to institute a ban on a substance to which members of the community are addicted. This is not something the College needed to do. It’s a service the College has chosen to offer for free (these products can be expensive OTC) because it knows how challenging quitting can be and wants to support all members of the community in every way possible. Note, I said community. These services are available for all members of the Union family, including staff, many of whom unfortunately do suffer from tobacco addiction. I actually remember that the College decided on offering these products in our very first meeting on the topic. Please have the sense of mind not to be insulted by a nice gesture.

    I’m sorry if this article comes off as harsh or abrasive, but I just really think you need to critically and objectively examine the statements you’ve made in this article. I know the attitude at Union is to hate the administration and bristle under their authority and decisions, but there’s not some conspiracy against students and your happiness. The motivation for this decision was first and foremost health. I’m not going to say there wasn’t at least some consideration given to cultivating the image of a healthy campus, but there was no committee where the senior staff was mischievously rubbing their fingers together imagining a way to impinge on the rights of students while boosting our public image.

  2. Could care less about the tobacco but love how our very proud young alumni gloats about out multi million dollar athletic facilities…. oh please… Work Out World and other $10 month gyms provide far more then that dark dank gym with missing weight sets. Of course the womens cardio machines are nice…. the mens weights are literally falling apart.

  3. Of course the machines and weights can be used by everybody but generally speaking women tend to use the upstairs machines, while men tend to use the crumbling weights down stairs

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