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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA smoking ban just smoke and mirrors

    It was the night before classes started; social events marked by forced friendliness and repetitive what’s-your-major introductions set the campus abuzz. As one of us pulled out of a parking garage, ready to retreat home, they heard a knock on their window. It was a young man, most likely a freshman (judging by the lanyard around his neck), who inquired loudly, “HEY! Got a light?”

    For a moment, they thought of telling him this was a smoke-free campus. Silence prevailed.

    A year ago, the UA, in what seemed like a breath of fresh air to parents of potential students, officially banned the use of all tobacco products on campus.

    The new policy generated polar responses. Some lauded the ambitious attempt to make campus a cleaner place; others scoffed at the school’s attempt to coddle its students and dictate the life choices of grown adults.

    Twelve months later, the verdict on the policy is still, well, smoky. To the lay-student’s eye, it honestly doesn’t seem like much has changed. While campus remains a generally pleasant place for commuters, we all pass through the lingering scent of cigarette smoke daily. Ironically, this seems to happen in suspiciously high concentration nearest to the school’s “No Smoking” signs.

    Regardless of the policy’s theoretical efficacy or inefficacy, its lax enforcement calls us to wonder: What was really the point of this rule in the first place?

    The Smoking and Tobacco Policy states, “The purpose of this Policy is to establish the University of Arizona’s commitment to protect the health of University faculty, staff, students, and visitors on its campuses.” Sure, the intention seems pure. But, if the real reason to enact the policy was to protect people’s health, shouldn’t it be more highly enforced—for everyone’s sake?

    The official ban also states, “The success of this Policy depends on the entire campus community and its members being willing to hold one another accountable. Whenever possible, concerns about tobacco and nicotine use should be respectfully addressed at the time such concerns arise.”

    Really? When was the last time a law was successfully enforced by righteous pedestrians piping, “Hey! Don’t do that!” It is unreasonable for the university to expect its students to take on the awkward burden of enforcing its policy. If the university intends to hold its students accountable for maintaining better health, it needs to use its own resources to do so.

    ASU recently added a $50 fine as a reprimand for people caught smoking on their newly tobacco-free campus. While this may not be the best way to rehabilitate smokers’ health habits, it certainly shows that ASU intends for its ban to be actualized.

    If the University of Arizona Police Department can pull over a bicyclist for peddling on the sidewalk, supposedly in the name of public safety, why can’t they also take action against the cancer-causing agents on those sidewalks?

    The UA’s unwillingness to enforce the ban makes us think that maybe it is just smoke and mirrors, after all. Without more concrete enactment, the policy is little more than a way for the university to boost its image and tout its tobacco-free status. The ban’s gray area leaves just enough leeway to shame tobacco users while not actually offering improved resources to help them quit.

    If the true intention of the Smoking and Tobacco Policy is to promote student health, great. But if the ban won’t be enforced, there shouldn’t be a ban at all. Student health would be better improved by investment in resources to combat addiction than by public shaming. When reevaluating the policy in the future, the UA should realize that, unlike a person bothered by public smoking, addiction can’t just get up and walk away.

    Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat Editorial board and are written by its members. They are Jessie Webster, Jacquelyn Oesterblad, Katelyn Kennon and Hailey Dickson. Jacquelyn Oesterblad recused herself from this editorial. They can be reached at or on Twitter on @DailyWildcat.

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