Smokers’ rights snuffed

jackie.stark

Lately, NMU President Les Wong has been pushing for a smoke-free campus. While I

commend his effort and his intentions to make Northern a safer, healthier school to attend, I don’t believe making the school’s campus entirely smokefree is a good choice.

I am an ex-smoker myself, and while attending Northern significantly contributed to my increasingly bad habit, I became good friends with a fair amount of people over cigarettes. We’d huddle together outside in the blustering snow talking about our classes, the food in the M.P. or our roommates. We regularly bummed each other cigarettes when one of us was tight on cash. My smokers’ circle eventually became my good friends.

And though I have since quit smoking, I remain friends with these people today.

An outright campus-wide ban on smoking would certainly cause an uproar among Northern’s smokers. I’ve visited a few campuses and NMU, by far, has the most smokers traveling to and from classes that I have seen. It would be a strange day for me if somewhere between Gries and Jamrich I didn’t stumble upon at least one smoker, huddled inside a jacket, puffing away.

And while I agree that second-hand smoke is an unneeded hazard for students who only want to get to class without having any health risks imposed upon them, I don’t agree that the solution is to prevent everyone from smoking on campus.

All smokers are required to stand 30 feet from a university building when smoking. However, it didn’t take me very long to realize that this rule was more of a suggestion. Hardly anyone actually stands 30 feet from a building when smoking, unless they are walking to class.

There are two things university officials could do to prevent students from smoking next to buildings: They need to actually enforce the 30-foot rule, and they should build shelters for smokers to use in inclement weather, much like the bus shelters which were added to campus last semester.

If Public Safety handed tickets to anyone smoking within 30 feet of a university building, people would more than likely stop smoking there. If they handed out tickets every time an officer saw a student flick a cigarette butt somewhere other than a garbage or cigarette receptacle, our campus would look much cleaner. Smokers spend a lot of money on their habit and would probably rather spend that $25 on a carton of Camel’s than a ticket from Public Safety.

And if the university can provide shelters for the small number of its students who take the Wildcat Shuttle, it can certainly add a few more on campus for the much larger number of its students who smoke.

Smokers don’t stand next to university buildings for the sole purpose of blowing their smoke straight at innocent bystanders. They stand there because the buildings block the bitter winds that are signature of the U.P. If they had a sheltered place to smoke, they would use it. Like the old adage says, if you build
it, they will smoke there.

And even if university officials did none of these things, there is still the issue of a smoker’s right to puff away.

Until smoking itself becomes illegal, which will never happen, smokers will need to have a place to get their nicotine fixes. They’ve already been shunned from restaurants or most other public buildings. “No smoking” signs are hanging everywhere,
and when smokers do find a place to light up, it’s not uncommon for a complete stranger walking by to tell them they are probably going to die from some sort of cancer.

Taking away a smoker’s right to light up on campus is not the solution for the issues that nonsmokers raise. It’s an extreme reaction to an otherwise manageable problem.