UA tobacco ban smokes out healthier substitutes
Have you ever tried to be productive while suffering from an intense craving? Not necessarily for nicotine, but perhaps for junk food or coffee. If not, let me tell you: It’s really, really, really hard — and not at all conducive to being productive or comfortable.
But once again, a new proposal has emerged that would eliminate on-campus smoking. The Tobacco-Free University of Arizona Policy, initiated by Stephanie Kha, a biochemistry junior and director of the Student Health Advocacy Committee, would ban tobacco and smoking-related products from the entire UA campus, hugely inconveniencing on-campus smokers.
It would establish the university as a tobacco-free space, and could prohibit smoking everywhere on campus except for inside of a car with closed windows. The ban would allow “smoking cessation products,” like nicotine patches, but that’s it. Any method of smoking, including cigarettes as well as pipes, hookah and e-cigarettes, would be restricted.
This policy in its current state would do a huge disservice to campus smokers, and especially overlooks people who use e-cigarettes as an aid to quit smoking and an alternative to nicotine patches, which can cost around $25 to $50 for a two-week supply.
In the proposal’s own words, its goal is to create a “healthy, comfortable and educationally productive environment for those who participate in University activities.”
Everyone should have the same right to the climate touted by the policy, but choosing SHAC’s route would ultimately take that right away from e-cigarette smokers. Kha doesn’t seem to realize that e-cigarettes may improve the health and productivity of smokers.
For people trying to quit smoking, puffing on an e-cigarette when a craving hits can help reduce the need to smoke traditionally. Being stuck on campus for hours without being able to satisfy that craving could drive a person to go home at the end of the day and light up a real cigarette.
Dustin Rhodes, a molecular and cellular biology freshman, smokes both regular cigarettes and an e-cigarette to cut back on his traditional smoking. He said that he felt it was unfair to ban smoking while many other behaviors remain uncontrolled on campus.
“I wouldn’t mind smoking being restricted to certain areas,” Rhodes said, “but to ban it all over campus is unacceptable as long as the U of A allows people like the preachers to blast their beliefs across campus.”
Since e-cigarettes create a vapor instead of burning, they don’t produce the harmful smoke that regular cigarettes do.
Currently, there isn’t sufficient evidence to suggest that they create the same secondhand hazards as regular cigarettes. A study published by Zachary Cahn and Michael Siegel in the Journal of Public Health Policy found that “electronic cigarettes show tremendous promise in the fight against tobacco-related morbidity and mortality.”
Kha said that she still didn’t view e-cigarettes as a healthy choice.
“It’s a very gray area still because there hasn’t been enough research,” Kha said. “It depends on how [e-cigarettes are] used.”
SHAC wants to improve campus health, but it’s not SHAC’s (or anyone’s) responsibility to police personal consumption of nicotine, especially when it doesn’t impact public health as a whole.
Banning smoking at the university is not going to lead most smokers to quit. Most likely, it’s going to stress them out so much that they smoke more once they leave campus.
Designated areas, instead of a ban, could keep non-smokers away from secondhand smoke and vapor (which can have an irritating smell) without inconveniencing so many people on campus.
“Students and UA employees support [the policy] and want [the campus to be tobacco-free],” Kha said, “so having that foundation really helps drive the momentum.”
But not everyone on campus supports the move for a tobacco-free policy. A 2012 Health and Wellness Survey conducted by UA Campus Health Service showed 70.2 percent support banning tobacco from the university campus. That doesn’t mean that the other 29.8 percent should be disregarded.
There should be some compromise. I’m not saying that smokers should be babied and allowed to smoke wherever they want, but this policy severely crosses a line and the people behind it need to step back and stop acting like helicopter moms. Providing resources to help people stop smoking would be much more effective than trying to enforce a policy for the entire university.
The policy will be under review, with public feedback taken into consideration, until April 25. If you have a comment to make about the policy, email Allison Vaillancourt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Miki Jennings is a journalism and linguistics senior. Follow her @Daily Wildcat.