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Often, when I ask people about their opinions on the possible campus smoking ban, I find a common theme: confusion. What little information on the school’s happenings is available is certainly not enough to understand the exact nature of why this issue is being addressed. Emmanuel College is clear however, in that they want this examined.
It all began in October, when Emmanuel received an invite to a symposium at UMass Medical School in Worcester on local colleges going smoke free. The school’s chancellor, Dr. Michael F. Collins sent out invites to a total of thirty-five Massachusetts colleges—Emmanuel being one. Dr. Joe, a student, and a representative from the president’s office attended the symposium together. UMass Medical School, under the direction of Dr. Collins, has banned tobacco since 2008.
Dr. Collins has stated: “It really ticks me off to see the number of young people smoking… It wasn’t easy [to go smoke free], but it was the right thing to do”.
Coming back from the symposium, Dr. Joe met with the President, and together they decided to initiate the discussion to ban tobacco on campus. When asked, for the reasons, Dr. Joe said that it “has to do with health risks and aesthetic… we’re trying to look at what is best for the campus”.
Since the fall, the college has been ramping up efforts to help students beat their addiction to cigarettes. Emmanuel OSAMP tried to get students to participate in The Great American Smokeout, a health campaign managed by The American Cancer Society. And the smoking area adjacent to the Yawkey Center remained a smoke-free zone. Then, in December, Boston passed an ordinance banning smoking in public areas. Emmanuel, in response, set up an ad hoc committee to discuss whether or not to follow suit.
“Educating people to the health problems is important” says Dr. Joe, “We don’t share the research enough of how this affects people—how the chemicals in smoke affect people’s own healths and, because it’s such a public thing, affects the health of others”.
Emmanuel College, as any institution would, wants a healthy and happy student body. The school points to numerous health risks that manifest from a lifetime of smoking as reason enough to ban tobacco.
“Tobacco use is the number one cause of chronic illness and the number one cause of premature death… killing more people than AIDS, alcohol, car crashes, fires, heroin, cocaine, homicide, and suicide combined,” says Dr. Joe, reading from a pamphlet given to him at the symposium.
But regardless of how non-smokers feel, there is still the unquestioned fact that some people still choose to smoke. If Emmanuel decides to go tobacco free, the college faces the tricky situation of what to do about the students that will still decide to smoke. Some students are confused as to what they will do if they can no longer smoke on campus.
“Where am I going to have a cigarette if they ban smoking on campus anyway? The sidewalk?” asks Graham Werner ’16.
If policy changes and becomes strictly enforced, students still wishing to smoke would most likely have to leave campus to do so. This possibility causes some to feel that Emmanuel is forcing them to quit, despite their choosing otherwise. Other students feel that they should be allowed the option on smoking on campus, and it would be unfair to remove that right.
“I do feel as though barring cigarette smoking on campus will cause more harm than good for the campus” says Werner, “Remember the second designated smoking area that used to be by the JYC? They took away the ashtray and trash can and now there is a solid layer of cigarette butts all over the walk over there and all over the ground.”
The school is certainly trying to do away with the excess litter. Some students believe there should be more access to ash trays around campus.
If the college ends up banning the use of tobacco, then it will face the issue of enforcing its rules. How will the institution do this? There are rumors about being fined, but most students seem to dismiss the idea.
“Emmanuel does not have the power in any form to control our behavior. I pay thousands and thousands of dollars to go to this school, I’m not paying them to tell me what to do” says Werner, who does not believe the college can enforce a tobacco ban.
At the present moment, it looks like the current trend is spreading. CVS Pharmacy recently announced that it would now stop selling tobacco products; cutting an estimated two billion dollars out of its profits. The company is trying to be health-conscious with its products. Maybe it’s the start of a new, healthy future. Or the start of some bizarre civil rights movement. For now, talk to a member of the ad hoc committee. After all, the committee was formed to listen to the students’ voices. Here is the link where you can submit your opinion on this matter. Let your voice be heard.
Class of 2017 president, Lindsay Cathcart, who campaigned for the elimination of tobacco on campus, chose not to comment for this article.
Seth Leonard is a Staff Writer for The Hub.