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To preserve social spaces, review team should burn smoke-free campus proposal

By Caleb Diehl and Zibby Pillote /// Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief 

Banning smoking from campus, a proposal under consideration by some members of the Smoking Policy Implementation and Review Team (SPIRT), would lead to cleaner air, but only at the expense of valuable social spaces.

In an email sent Feb. 6 to writers of the strategic plan for the College of Arts and Sciences, Michael Ford, Associate Vice President for Campus Life and Chair of the Smoking Policy Implementation Review Team asked why “we at LC continue to cater to the nicotine addiction of just under 20 percent of our students who smoke.” He said the only positive quality of DSAs is that they mitigate the effects of secondhand smoke, and that it’s not worth spending $150,000 of student tuition money on a “risk to public and personal health.” For similar reasons, the University of Oregon, Oregon State University and Pacific Lutheran University have all gone tobacco-free.

Like LC, other campuses take the middle road to preserve spaces for socializing and stress relief while keeping secondhand smoke contained. Reed bans smoking within ten feet of a building and PSU within 25 feet.

DSAs might incur high costs, especially when students overturn or destroy tables and chairs, but they’re worth maintaining. The smoke-free policy will only drive students, and their secondhand, elsewhere. If their designated gathering place disappears, students might turn their frustration on other areas of campus, or take their smoking to the streets of Collins View. If DSAs cost too much, perhaps the college can take a look at other places where money is ill spent—iPad raffles and poorly attended speakers.

For the students left without DSAs, addiction, even to a legal substance like nicotine, isn’t easily fought. Recovering alcoholics and drug addicts turn to cigarettes for help. And students aren’t the only ones who smoke. What will faculty and staff members who smoke do once they are driven off campus?

We can’t be sure if a smoke-free policy will make financial sense until we’ve evaluated the social costs of losing a place to meet people and disturbing the neighborhood. When the smoke clears, we might find more widespread harm and a less vibrant social scene.

 

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