This Thursday, K-State’s Student Senate will vote on a resolution that would recommend limiting smoking on campus to designated areas. Although the final decision rests in the hands of university administration, Speaker of the Senate Kyle Nuss said administration has indicated they will take action if the resolution passes.
I’m not a smoker, so a change in policy would not affect me personally. However, I’m not a big fan of the idea for several reasons.
Last spring, the Student Governing Association conducted a plebiscite vote to gauge public opinion on campus smoking. Of the roughly 3,800 students and faculty who voted, nearly 85 percent of respondents favored further restrictions, and more than 35 percent approved of a full ban of smoking on campus. However, more than 90 percent of those voters indicated they weren’t smokers; obviously, it’s easier to support restrictions on a right you don’t exercise. Furthermore, K-State has nearly 24,000 students. Less than one-sixth of the student body population was represented in the vote, which hardly seems like an adequate sample size to base such a major change on.
Proponents of the resolution argue that limiting smoking to predetermined areas would cut down on secondhand smoke. I’ve heard lots of complaints about students being “trapped” behind smokers while walking between classes. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I’ve never had issues with this. I don’t like breathing in or smelling like cigarette smoke either, but I’ve found that simply increasing or decreasing my walking pace puts plenty of space between myself and any smokers I come across. It’s a much easier solution than forcing smokers into certain areas, and allows me to remain smoke-free without infringing on anyone else’s freedoms.
I get that smoking is bad for you, and that it can be bad for others when they’re consistently exposed to it. With that in mind, as a student who is on campus every day, I just don’t believe anyone is exposed to secondhand smoke regularly enough to merit forbidding students from making a personal choice.
I’m also skeptical about the university’s ability to enforce a more restrictive policy. The current policy prohibits smoking within 30 feet of marked entrances to university buildings. I see this rule violated on a daily basis; what will make a new one any different? The SGA resolution states that the body “supports stricter enforcement” of whatever new policy is enacted. It takes less than five minutes to smoke a cigarette, and people tend to walk around when they smoke. Unless people are paid to constantly patrol campus, it will be awfully hard to enforce.
Smokers are increasingly in the minority, on campus and across the country. However, just because most people don’t agree with their choice doesn’t mean they should be permitted to forbid it. Most people find tuna to have an unpleasant smell; should we force those who enjoy eating it for lunch to sit in a designated section of the K-State Student Union?
The Student Senate has an important decision on their hands Thursday evening. I’d encourage them to remember that they were elected to represent the entire student population of their respective college. It would be quite a shame if they voted to isolate some of their constituents so that the rest didn’t have to put up with them.
Mike Stanton is a sophomore in mass communications. Please send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.