When I came back to Ole Miss this semester, I noticed something different about the landscape and buildings on our beautiful campus.
Everywhere you look, yard signs, posters and stickers signal that The University of Mississippi is now a smoke-free campus. Personally, I am extremely happy with this policy shift; however, many students, faculty and staff are upset with the policy. This smoke free policy has been a major point of debate since the fall semester began, and the debate doesn’t seem to be quieting down.
From what I have learned and heard, students and faculty across the university are upset for many reasons. They feel there was not enough student input in the policy. They feel that it is unfair to smokers on campus. They feel it alienates smokers and is discriminatory.
Basically, smokers are given no accommodations on our campus.
I think it’s important to first point out that the idea of a smoke-free environment is nothing new. The University of Mississippi is certainly not the leader in implementing a smoke free policy. More than 500 campuses across the country have enacted similar policies.
Additionally, more than 25 states have some type of smoking ban, whether it is in the workplace, bars or restaurants. In Mississippi, more than 60 towns and communities have established smoke free ordinances. This is a national movement that is sweeping the country quickly.
I think it’s also important to point out that the Associated Student Body – the elected representatives of Ole Miss students – passed smoke free legislation.
If students had such a problem with this policy, shouldn’t they have voiced this concern after the legislation was passed? Furthermore, if students weren’t happy with the policy, I hope they chose to talk to their ASB senators. Student representatives are also members of the Smoke Free Committee.
Many have argued that designated smoking areas on campus were the best option. However, I would disagree.
As a nonsmoker, I am still susceptible to inhaling smoke when I have to walk through these smoking areas to get to class or a meeting. Besides that, the designated areas are more complicated and more difficult to enforce. I would hope the university enforces the new smoke free policy harshly and quickly; if it is not enforced, then students and staff will be less likely to abide by it in the future.
Smoking is also a health issue. The majority of persons on this campus are nonsmokers. Institutions usually try to craft policies that favor the majority. If the majority of people on this campus don’t smoke, it’s only fair that a policy is in place to protect them. It is not fair that my health could be compromised because of the actions of someone else.
Smoking is a landscape issue as well. Ole Miss will not remain the most beautiful campus in the nation if cigarette butts (which can take years to degrade) are all over the place.
Thus I am very much in favor of the smoke free policy here at The University of Mississippi. And to be frank, I would tell opponents that they are wasting their time; I don’t believe the university will reverse this decision. Smoke free policies are trending across the nation.
However, if you are truly concerned about the university’s policy, come by the Overby Center at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 26. The Associated Student Body will host a Smoke Free Campus Town Hall Meeting. Learn about the policy, voice your concerns and listen to the opinions of others.
Adam Blackwell is a public policy leadership junior from Natchez. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBlackwell1.
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