Administration should reconsider smoking ban

Alex Belz

Recently, NMU President Les Wong has been discussing the creation of a campus-wide smoking ban. This would ensure that smokers would not be able to smoke anywhere on campus, except in their cars.

While I understand the health concerns to non-smokers regarding secondhand smoke, I feel this decision is not the best way to handle the smoking situation on campus. Though NMU requires smokers to smoke 30 feet away from the door, this requirement is not often obeyed, especially during times of inclement weather, forcing non-smokers to walk through a cloud of cigarette smoke they shouldn’t have to breathe.

Yet banning smoking altogether on campus punishes the students, faculty and staff on campus who do smoke. According to the Marquette County Health Department, 14 percent of people in Marquette County were smokers in 2005. That’s more than one in 10 people who would be directly affected by this ban.

For me, cigarettes help me relieve stress. They help me deal with studying for an exam or writing a paper. I feel like I need those cigarettes to help me get through my school week. I know several other smokers who feel the same way.

Tom Cory // NW

Everyone has a vice that helps them relieve stress. For some people, it’s three or four cups of coffee to get them going through their day. For others, it’s energy drinks or fast food. Some people like to unwind at the end of the week by drinking.

The difference is that these other vices harm only the person drinking or eating them. But if I smoke away from doorways and paths and I’m harming only myself, am I any different from the guy who drinks two Monster energy drinks peacefully in Starbucks?

On a personal level, the course of my social activites at NMU would be completely different if this smoking ban had been in place when I came to school here.

When I first came to Northern, I was a transfer student from the Detroit area who hadn’t ever experienced true university life. I didn’t really know how to meet people or how the social scene of a university works.

But I had an upper hand over other students who may have been in that situation: I was a smoker. As nervous as I was, I ended up chatting with people who lived in my hall outside on chance cigarette breaks from our studies and from our day-to-day lives. Slowly but surely, those people became friends. Today, the people I met on those smoke breaks that first week are some of my best friends.

It’s true that I may have met people anyway. Perhaps making friends while living in the dorms and attending a university is inevitable.

But I know that for me, those smoke breaks with people from my hall helped accelerate the process and helped me to make friends. If smoking is banned on campus, that opportunity may be lost for future students.

Perhaps instead of implementing a campus-wide smoking ban, I suggest that there should be designated smoking areas.

In a university community, we’ve got to learn to live together in peace. If smokers still have a place where they were able to smoke, it would benefit everyone. Smokers could still smoke in the designated areas and non-smokers would know exactly what place to avoid. Non-smokers could walk up the hill or into an academic building without having to breathe our smoke, and smokers could still retain the right to smoke. It’s a compromise we could all live with.