By Can Altunkaynak
This year, Oregon passed a law that increased the legal smoking age to 21. Following this change, Lewis & Clark recently removed its Designated Smoking Areas (DSAs) under the advertisement “Welcome To Our Tobacco Free, Smoke Free, Vape Free Campus.” The change was drastic rather than subtle.
When I was going around campus for the first time this semester, I saw that the picnic tables were removed which meant that there were no DSAs anymore. Though I was one of those who quit smoking after the law was passed, I felt disappointed and sad to see such a big part of my first semester experience be removed.
I do not assume, however, that it was easy for everyone to quit smoking. As someone who grew up in Turkey, where smoking is a very social activity, I find that expectation totally unrealistic. Frankly, sometimes this social aspect can be more addictive than the physical addiction itself.
I am sure there are still people smoking on campus and creating a smoke-free campus will not necessary stop them. Maybe the college aims to decrease the number of people smoking, but change is the best when it happens step by step, not overnight. It has to be realistic and transformational rather than oppressive and idealistic.
If the aim is to make students quit smoking, then a longer and more gradual process is required. If we are to have a healthy campus then this should be done bearing in mind the needs of those who get affected by this change: the smokers. If people do not think that the changes are realistic, they are simply not going to comply with them. It is also important to note that a smoke-free campus would not be as much of a limitation of freedom if we were downtown and had easier access to smoke-friendly areas, but unfortunately we are not.
Limiting the freedom of students is certainly not the biggest concern of this policy. Students might go off campus to smoke, but this may bother other residents in the neighborhood. Students experiencing nicotine withdrawals can be a serious issue. Likewise, if students go to the woods in the middle of the night to smoke, they might hurt themselves in various ways.
There is a solution to all of this which can discourage people from smoking while ensuring their safety. Having at least one DSA, even if it is in a distant corner of the campus, can make sure that smoking does not increase as a social activity around campus while keeping students safe.
I know this is not ideal for many, but it is more realistic and viable compared to the expectation that students stop smoking cold turkey. It is also a better option considering that many students stuck in the “LC bubble” cannot frequently leave campus. And even if they could, the college should make sure that students are safe within necessary limits rather than expecting them to comply with unreasonable rules.