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Recent ban of tobbaco products may not be best

On February 26, 2014

Before I transferred to UConn, I was at a liberal arts school called SUNY Purchase, about ten minutes shy of White Plains, N.Y., and thirty by train to the city. I noticed a trend among art school kids during my tenure there; the greater majority have septum piercings and smoke cigarettes. Basically everybody in my dorm used to clog the stairs outside to drink crappy dining hall coffee and chain smoke at all times of the day. Ignorant to the general Purchase demographic, the 2013-2014 faculty handbook denotes intentions of "[developing] a state law that will make [all SUNY schools] 100 percent tobacco-free by the end of [2013]." And in a perfectly reasonable response, a November article in the Purchase Phoenix reported that legislators rejected a statewide ban. Now, why is that? Probably because prohibiting cigarettes across a vast campus with thousands of people is like trying to not throw up after consuming a bag of barbeque chips with a gallon of lemonade.
The American Non-Smoker's Rights Foundation reported that Stanford University is the latest school to join the 1,182 smoke-free colleges and universities across America, with venders ceasing the distribution of all tobacco products by March 1st. Many people at the university seem very gung-ho about it. While acknowledging that smoking is a personal choice, Robert Hackler, a professor at the Stanford School of Medicine, told the Stanford Daily, "The university should not adopt policies which facilitate a habit which is the leading cause of preventable death in America and shortens the life of its users by some 10 years."
Yeah, it's deadly; we are all thoroughly aware of that. Smoking among young people is being discouraged through loss-framed commercials featuring persons with tracheotomies and Stephen Hawking-esque voice boxes. Yet the CDC says that 17.3 percent of American adults ranging from ages 18-24 still smoke, over one-sixth of the age group. In Fall 2013, the undergraduate enrollment at Stanford was 6,980-multiply that by .173 and you get roughly 1208 student smokers, still a good portion of undergrads. While these numbers undoubtedly have been decreasing over the years, smokers aren't going away. It's not like people who actively smoke cigarettes turn blind at the sight of pictures of emphysema. Smokers assume all of these risks because they don't care, and they would've quit by now if they did.
But that's what this is about: the freedom to smoke, to quit or not quit. I don't want to get all faux-patriotic, but in the great land of America, you have the right to pollute your body under any legal tenet. Go to Arby's six times a day, or go play in an unmarked oil-drenched river. There are plenty of boundaries set for cigarettes to not impinge on other people's health, too: you can't smoke inside public places, and you can only smoke x-amount of feet away from certain buildings. As long as you're not contributing secondhand smoke to an enclosed space and instigating lung cancer in anybody but yourself, there shouldn't be a problem. Again, it's your prerogative.
Just to clarify, Stanford is only stopping the sale of tobacco products, so people will still be able to smoke in designated areas on campus, but they'll have incredibly limited access to obtaining smoking necessities, i.e. tobacco. The aforementioned Stanford Daily article notes that there are two nearby vendors in the area: a main-campus shop called Tresidder Express and a Valero gas station off-campus. With the Tresidder Express subject to the ban, the closest access smokers will have to their cigarettes is the Valero.
Keep in mind, Stanford has upwards of 700 buildings and covers 8,000 acres of land; it's probably a long walk for most people, another contributor of stress to the overwhelming hubbub of college life, especially at such a rigorous school. This ban is detrimental to people who want and need to feed their addictions and still have to focus on academia. As exemplified with essentially any other drug prohibition, people will start selling it, and the gas station can only carry a limited quantity of products. I think it's safe to assume that this population of students will be very unhappy and anxious, sentiments which can completely derail you in college.


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