By Clay Parlette
It always seemed odd to me that a campus so vehemently opposed to the consumption of alcohol would treat tobacco as if it were nothing more than a fire hazard. Indeed, if one read the current tobacco policy as sent out in a recent UF Update, tobacco is prohibited inside all University-owned buildings, but permitted outside. As the culture has shifted from previous generations’ glorification of tobacco consumption to today’s wide disapproval of it, we see its usage continue to dwindle to unprecedented low numbers. The state of Ohio passed a landmark indoor smoking ban in 2006, and thereafter, universities, one by one, began to completely prohibit its usage on campus. Most notably, bigger state schools like Bowling Green and Toledo, known by many as wet party campuses, successfully invoked tobacco-free policies—all without much noticeable protest. Yet, UF remained in the haze. It seems that the potential revision of policy to finally ban tobacco and vape products from campus will be welcomed not only by our concerned parents, but by us college students who have better things to do than tar up our lungs.
According to the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, tobacco use is responsible for more deaths than HIV/AIDS, alcohol, motor vehicle crashes, homicide, suicide, illegal drugs, and fires combined. Keep in mind that smoking isn’t confined to the user either. Complications caused by second-hand smoke can be just as serious as smoking itself. I know I sound like my fourth grade DARE instructor telling you how awful tobacco and drugs are, but it’s reached the point when we must ask why we continue to allow something so harmful and devastating to continue on campus when we so easily could ban it—just like we’ve banned things like hover boards, alcohol, toasters, and pets for safety concerns (all of which done without a survey process). Since smoking addiction is shown to begin before age 26, the college years are crucial to establishing healthy habits. And while a University policy will not force us into a particular lifestyle, it can certainly make it harder to acquire the habit, and effectively educate against the usage of tobacco and other potentially harmful vape products.
The final point to the argument for banning tobacco and vape products is that, even as one might perceive the right to partake in these types of activities, we all have an even greater right to breathe clean air in our learning environment. Just like the topic of guns, one’s right to safety should trump another’s right to have a firearm in a public place. In 2016, students should not have to feel like they have to breathe others’ smoke when simply walking around on campus. For a habit that continues to prove more and more dangerous as we learn about it, it should be a no-brainer that this policy is more than appropriate, and is more likely to be met by a giant hurrah than a student protest on the mall. I applaud whoever took the initiative to bring this discussion to the table, and I look forward to being able to proudly call my campus a Platinum Plus Tobacco-Free campus.