Letter to the editor: UST should keep current smoking restrictions

A recent entry in The Scroll brought to light several points for consideration in the debate regarding smoking bans on campus. While the author articulated important arguments for the health of students, we would like to respectfully offer a contrasting opinion in favor of keeping the current restrictions and allowing students to smoke on campus. The article ended with three main points and we would like to respond accordingly.

Firstly, the author puts forth the idea that “St. Thomas is an institution for education and enlightenment therefore the only enlightened position about it is ‘DON’T.’” However, education involves multiple viewpoints and the rights of all students and faculty to make their own decisions.

The second point argues “we already make life tough on smokers.” Perhaps we’re missing the point; is the author suggesting we should make life harder? It seems a contradiction for an institution, which prides itself on openness and inclusion. The final point listed in the article proposes that forcing smokers to go longer periods of time without cigarettes will curb their habit. In our opinion, it is a personal decision to smoke and/or quit and St. Thomas has no business infringing on personal rights. It seems a far stretch to assume a ban would be the sole solution to ending such a habit.

The authors of this letter come from non-smoking backgrounds and continue to be non-smoking members of the St. Thomas community. While we appreciate smokers who respect the boundaries currently in place, we feel that expanding these boundaries would be a violation of personal choice. The St. Kate’s community, which has recently enforced a smoking ban on campus, is now facing safety concerns for students who are forced to leave campus after dark to smoke. Perhaps these students would disagree with the original article’s conclusion that “the only loser would be state governments that tax cigarettes” if a ban was in place.

Allyssa Mashak and Georgina Boyle, Seniors

32 Replies to “Letter to the editor: UST should keep current smoking restrictions”

  1. I’ve been accused of only making sarcastic and ill-willed comments, so this one will try to be more productive. 
    The argument that was presented on the The Scroll was no good. However, your treatment of their argument seems equally bad. For example, you explain that smoking should be allowed on campus, as educational institutions, should harbor multiple viewpoints. 
    This type of reasoning, extremely popular in casual conversation, crumbles under any sort of scrutiny. The following distinction should be made. A university should not tolerate all views, but rather should be open to considering them. Once these views have been considered and found false, there is no need to continue entertaining them. In fact, they should be explicitly rejected. This is precisely the reason why the University does not (and should not) tolerate people who hold the view that one race is inferior to another, or that the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter is 4. 
    Of course, this ‘multiple viewpoints’ reasoning does not seem to apply to this situation anyways. USG is considering banning smoking from campus (an action) and is not banning the view that smoking is acceptable (a viewpoint). 

  2. On the issue of smoking, consider these points. First, I believe that smoking is not a good or healthy thing to do. However, if one chooses to smoke and contract a dease in the process, it should not be a public responsibility to care for that person at public expense. Therefore, those who smoke should be required to pay for their own health costs. There is also a difference, however in who is restricting smoking. One may restrict smoking on his/her private property including private business property and in my opinion private school property as well. However, I do not believe that the government has the right or responsibility to restrict smoking on public property, as that would be infringing upon the Constitutional right of everyone to make free personal choices that are not injurious to others. So in my opinion the school may choose to restrict or not restrict smoking on its campus, and the students may choose to attend or not attend classes there.

  3. As a person with asthma, I know how hard secondhand smoke can be on some students. I can barely stand to ride in a car with my father or grandmother when they’re smoking, or even remain in the same room with a smoker before breathing becomes a struggle. It is a person’s constitutional right to smoke if they choose, and I am not advocating a full ban for that reason, but I believe St. Thomas either needs to be more restrictive as to the locations available for smoking, or smokers need to be a little more considerate of those walking to class near them. Every day it seems like I’m walking to class downwind from a smoker, and sure enough, as the smell finds its way into my nostrils, the ability to breathe gets a little bit harder. I get that times are stressful (especially with finals week approaching) and that the need for a cigarette before class is probably increasing, but it does get more than a little bothersome with people blatantly blowing smoke in others’ faces. UST Smokers, I know that it doesn’t seem fair to restrict when and where you get to do something that you have the right to do, but it’d definitely make the lives of some of your fellow students (mine included) a little easier if you agreed to some minor changes.

  4. Dick,

    You said that , “Those who smoke should be required to pay for their own health costs.”  I’m curious, do you think this should apply for anyone who smokes, no matter how often?  There is a huge difference between someone who smokes a pack a day and someone who occasionally smokes a cigar with friends or to celebrate a special occasion.  Is there a line to be drawn between the two, and if so, where?  Would the government monitor who buys cigarettes, and how many?  And if we’re denying financial health support to smokers, why stop there?  Skydiving is an activity that is potentially dangerous and potentially harmful to one’s health, should we take the same action with them? What about bad drivers?   I could list a lot of examples here, but my point is that such an action would set a dangerous precedent.  
    I do agree with you that it’s within Saint Thomas’ legal rights to ban smoking campus-wide, I think that they CAN do it, but I don’t think that they SHOULD do it.

  5. Thanks for the feedback. As a non-smoker, would I enjoy a smoking ban? Yes. Do I think it is ethical or would alleviate the issues it proposes to address? Not a chance.

  6. Kylee, I understand completely with what you are saying. I also have asthma and swear I am always breathing in toxic fumes. It would be nice for smokers to follow restrictions more considerately. I cannot disagree with that.

  7. If you ban smoking/tobacco on campus for “health reasons”, then there is no valid reason to not ban alcohol as well. This ban is a terrible idea, let people make their own conscious decisions. As a smoker on campus, I wouldn’t mind if there were certain designated area’s in which to smoke, and that seems like a fair middle-ground for both sides of the issue; I wouldn’t mind going a bit out of my way to make others feel comfortable.

    My question is this however, if smoking is banned, how realistically could it be enforced? And if all tobacco is banned on campus, how would you enforce that? The amount of chewing tobacco used in the male residence halls on campus is higher than one might expect. Would students face fines as if they violated the alcohol policy? 

    All in all, it seems like the reasons and validation in support of banning smoking on campus can be translated to anything that can have negative health effects…tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, fatty foods, etc… 

  8. I believe Dick brings up a very good point. The students chose to go to St. Thomas. The school has every right to place a ban because the school is allowed to do as they please with its own property. I understand that the students here who smoke are legal adults and are allowed to smoke, however the school must look at the health standards for the student body as a whole. Smoking has many negative externalities. Second-hand smoke is very hazardous for the health of non-smokers who need to walk by the smokers as they go to class. By allowing the minority of smokers to continue smoking on campus, they endanger the health of all the other students. It is within one’s right to harm their own health should they so choose, but it is no one’s right to endanger the health of those around them. I have many friends who smoke, and they always try to ensure they do not smoke by other people because they know it is bad for those around them. I support the ban, even though it may be impractical to enforce, because it can help keep the rest of St. Thomas students healthy. Especially since the Surgeon General office just came out with a report that one cigarette, and only a little second-hand smoke greatly increases risks of lung disease and heart disease.

  9. David,
    All due respect, but walking through a minefield is “very hazardous”.  Driving drunk is “very hazardous”.  Playing tennis with a grenade is “very hazardous”.  I hardly think that catching a whiff of smoke on your walk in between Chemistry and English is “very hazardous”.  Walking by a smoker is not going to give you cancer.  When outside, smoke dissipates very quickly into the air.  I wouldn’t argue that second-hand smoke can be harmful or even fatal; if you spend every evening in a smoky bar or if you live with someone who smokes inside, I can see how that would cause health problems. What you’re describing though is an incredibly small amount of smoke.  To be fair, I’m not a scientist, I’m not an expert on the issue, and I’d be perfectly open to looking at evidence that contradicts what I just said.  I mean no disrespect to you, I simply disagree with your claim that one breath of smoke is “extremely hazardous”.  

  10. Good discussion, guys. You all bring up good and valid points. However, Constitutional rights and private property rights are prime. Certainly, if one is injurious to another in any regard, that action should rightly be restricted first, by the one doing the injuring, and then if not, by some governing authority. Morally, we have the responsibility to protect ourselves and those around us in every way possible. If we do that we will always take the steps necessary to accomplish that and restrictive laws will not be necessary. That is the basic Christian principle that we should all follow, but unfortunately that is not always what happens and why we have some extremists who will take steps to restrict everyone who might in the slightest degree disagree with them and why we have some extremist legislators who will try to pass outrageously restrictive un-Constitutional laws on all citizens rights. Be careful which rights you want to give up, for one day you may wake up and find out that we don’t have any anymore and live in a police state where nothing is allowed.

  11. Then, if smoking should be a personal choice, cohabitation (meaning: sex)without the benefit of a marital contract should also be allowed, as it is a personal choice. Certainly there is no effect on nearby persons (unlike second-hand smoke), outside of noise, which can be appropriately muffled. No more in loco parentis, as those over eighteen years old can make such choices on their own—morality (not required) and health (disease spread, pregnancy, etc.) can be dealt with on personal terms, as UST is a place where opinions are valued and accepted. Just keep it away from the front doors.

  12. I think everybody is getting a little too worked up about this issue. Did anybody even check to see if USG has legislative powers needed to actually stop smoking on campus? If they don’t have the power, then opponents of the ban don’t worry. The administration will seldom make a change a policy based on student opinion (see the new purchasing policy).

    Also, it would be a terrible policy to suddenly ban smoking. If it does go forward, it should be a gradual process, so any incoming student would be able to know that smoking would be prohibited at some point during their time here. It should probably be a 5 year plan, so everyone here now that is a smoker can go about his or her business without being affected.

    Even better the administration could start selling UST branded cigarettes that would be the only ones allowed on campus. It would be a great revenue generating opportunity for the new student center.

  13. Paul, I fully concede your point about viewpoints vs. actions. I apologize that our point was unclear.

    Kylee, I have asthma as well and agree that restrictions should be better followed. However, I do not think we have a right to stop people from smoking in a public place and feel that our government’s ban on smoking is out of line.

  14. I really don’t think any of this would be an issue if smokers were respectful to nonsmokers.  For example, there’s little that I hate more than seeing cigarette butts littered all over, it’s gross and it’s the smokers responsibility to properly dispose of said debris, yet anywhere I go you cannot avoid seeing cigarette butts strewn about.  Secondly, the rules that are supposed to keep individuals certain distances from building entrances are rarely adhered to by anyone.  Look, the solution is simple, smokers, pick up your trash and don’t make it inevitable that others will have to walk through the cloud of chemicals you have decided to inhale.  Really, thats all, end of discussion.  Show some common courtesy and all of this will go away.

  15. To address a few issues, an argument being valid doesn’t mean much. Validity (as a logic term) strictly relates to whether or not it follows the form of a logical argument, such that IF the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true. For example, if I go outside then I’ll inherit 10000000 dollars, I went outside, so I inherited 10000000 dollars. 

    I think what you are driving at is a sound argument, one whose premises are in fact true. On this matter, I do not think I’ve read a sound argument for not banning smoking (again, that is smoking and not all tobacco products or alcohol).  The factual premise is that smoking is dangerous, and if St. Thomas banned smoking on campus our community would be healthier for it. 

    However, no one is arguing against this fact. The only complaint I’ve read is a misguided understanding of when constitutional rights apply, and an obscurely defined notion of what we ought to do. Neither of these have adhered to the rules of a sound argument. 

  16. To address the most frequently recited “arguments.”

    No, their are no legal rights protecting a smokers freedom to smoke on St. Thomas’s private property.

    Smokers are not inherently endangered, by not being able to smoke on campus. True, if they choose to wander off at night to smoke, they’ve put themselves in danger to feed an addicting habit. I do the same think by failing to brush my teeth and only eating copious amounts of candy. 

    Personal choice doesn’t even make sense as it was used. St. Thomas isn’t capable of stopping someone’s personal choice. If a ban was enacted, yes there will be a penalty for ignoring it, but to equate that to a violation of personal choice is just demonstrably incorrect. 

    And lastly, while tangential to the topic of a UST ban, I am dumbfounded by governmental smears. As a constitutional republic, it was the people that elected these representatives, based on their campaign platforms that you should have an issue with. It is intellectually lazy, to look at an elected representative and think he or she is doing anything, but trying to stay in office. Blame the district that elected him/her, that is how the government works. 

  17. A thought on Constitutionality, if I may. St. Thomas is a private entity and NOT a part of the U.S. Government. For all those whining about the possibility of a campus-wide ban, constitutionality is not the correct argument against the ban. The areas outside of the buildings and the quad are part of St. Thomas property. St. Thomas is within its right to not allow smoking within its premises just as other universities can impose a ban on drinking within their grounds.

    That being said, I myself am not a smoker, but I do believe it seems unfair to ban the use of tobacco on a campus that is designated as a “wet campus” for those of age. Yes, one cannot be hurt by walking past a drunk person while walking past a smoker allows the possibility of second-hand smoke, but using this as a reason for banning smoking is ridiculous. A middle ground (like Landon suggested) seems to be an amicable solution. For those wanting a full ban, why can you not concede a couple of designated smoking areas? Seriously, being an absolutist about this issue is irrational. LOOK FOR MIDDLE GROUND :)

  18. I didn’t read any of the comments this time because I’m sick of reading these dense, wordy,  novellas you guys love to write, so forgive me if its already been said, but these arguments only make sense from the point of view of the addicted parties. If you don’t smoke, its easy to pass judgement and say “well just quit then”. If you DO smoke, its easy for you to say “Easy for YOU to say!” . Bottom line, there’s nothing good , or healthy about smoking. They don’t allow alcoholics to drink on campus, or heroin addicts to shoot up in class, why should you be any different? If you don’t want to walk off campus to do it, then maybe you should look into treatment. (treatment could be in the form of a nicotene patch for all I care, I’m sick of you people throwing your lit cigarettes out the window for me to put out with my car)

  19. Smoking kills people. My son, Michael Larson, died far too early because of a carelessly discarded cigarette. His grandfather will likely die soon after suffering a heart attack and COPD because of his long term use of cigarettes. As christians, we are all asked to treat our bodies like a temple. Using cigarettes or any form of tobacco is incongruent with what we are called to do. There is no debate here, there is only Truth.

  20. “There is no debate here, there is only Truth.”

    This article alone has twenty some-odd comments, and there are several others on Tommie Media with plenty of comments of their own.  People on both sides of the issue have brought up very good points.  There IS debate here, and it has been very healthy and respectful as far as I can tell.  In my opinion, there’s not nearly enough of that these days, and statements like, “there is no debate here”  don’t help at all.

  21. Hey, Anyone notice Brett F of the Viks chewing T during the past two games. What are peoples thoughts, on that, if he was? I always noticed more smoking on the south campus. Behind BEC seemed like a place smokers went. I understand the health issues ,but more Govt. regulations…do we really want that. What’s next: beer, types of music (could hurt hearing), and solo driving in general. Debate should be here.

  22. Mr. Westman. Denial isn’t debate. Everything said in support of smoking so far can be characterised as “I should be able to do whatever I want as long it is legal”. Name one positive contribution from tobacco use. As smokers, we learn early on to put up a mental wall of denial between our smoking habit and the harsh reality of the damage we’re inflicting on ourselves with every cigarette smoked.

    We tell ourselves lies that allow us smoke with some level of comfort. We say we have time to quit…that cancer doesn’t run in our family…that we can quit any time we want to…that the bad things happen to other people. And because smoking is typically a slow killer, those lies support the framework of our wall of denial for years and years.

    Eventually though, most smokers find that the wall begins to crumble, and bit by bit, smoking becomes a fearful, anxious activity. This is when most smokers start seriously thinking about how they might find a way to quit smoking for good.

    A crucial step in the recovery process from nicotine addiction involves breaking through that wall of denial to put smoking in the proper light. We need to learn to see our cigarettes not as the friend or buddy we can’t live without, but as the horrific killers they truly are. No debate,…

  23. Mr. Larson,
    The issue here isn’t whether or not smoking is harmful to one’s health.  Nobody’s making the argument that smoking is healthy.  Throughout my life, I’ve been bludgeoned over the head with the message “Smoking will kill you”  I suspect that most other people in my age group have had similar experiences.  Therefore I’m guessing that there are little/no delusions about whether or not smoking is healthy, at least amongst those discussing it here.  The point that we’re debating is whether or not Saint Thomas should ban tobacco use, and I think you’ve strayed a bit from that point.  I, personally, don’t think that saying “Smoking is bad” is, by itself, a sufficient argument for the banning of tobacco from campus.

  24. Mr. Westman, So when someone cares about you enough to help you know the truth about smoking, you equate that with them bludgeoning you over the head? They are not causing you harm, they are trying to prevent harm from being caused to you. Your statement shows a rebellious side, one that refuses to acknowledge “authority”. The tobacco industry caters to people like you and they know that your attitude can be used to overule your better judgement. A defiant attitude is usually what gets people started as smokers, nicotene addiction keeps you smoking and that defiant attitude is used to defend a behavior that really has no good defense. I think it’s OK to challenge authority because the “status quo” is wrong in many ways. Your time and talent would be better spent attacking something that is really wrong with our society instead of defending somthing that is KNOWN to have devastating health consequences. University of St. Thomas Mission statement: “Inspired by Catholic intellectual tradition, the University of St. Thomas educates students to be morally responsible leaders who think critically, act wisely and work skillfully to advance the common good.” So how does smoking fit into this? A critical thinker would choose not to do it. It is not wise.

  25. “Your statement shows a rebellious side, one that refuses to acknowledge “authority”.”

    Mr. Larson,
    I appreciate the free personality analysis, but you’re off topic again.  Let me reiterate that I am not a smoker and I am not denying that smoking is not a healthy activity to engage in.  My opinion is that Saint Thomas should not ban tobacco use campus-wide, and I don’t think that that makes me “defiant”, “rebellious”, or “someone the tobacco industry caters to”  We should be talking about logistics, compromises, etc, not whether or not smoking is good.

  26. To further John’s point… I believe we all know that Alcohol in excess is hazardous to health, but the University is still a wet campus. Similarly, eating five cheeseburgers in one sitting from the grill is probably not good for your cholesterol, but I have not seen a policy that limits how many cheeseburgers I can buy at a time. It also goes without a doubt that many at this University have pre-marital sex, something which is both “Un-Christian” and “possibly adverse to one’s health and wellbeing”, but I have not seen ANY POLICY stating that students will refrain from having sexual intercourse on campus. Mr. Larson, all due respect, but saying that banning smoking at this campus on the grounds of Christianity just does not fly.

  27. Kreitzer,
    I might not have made a compelling case but I’m not alone in this belief. http://www.realdeliverance.com/smoking.shtml http://bible-truth.org/Smoking.html You have been given free will and I’m sure you believe you have the right to exercise it. Unabated, you can decide to improve yourself and your surroundings or you may decide to engage in activities that destroy yourself and your surroundings. I know what God would want for you, but as a human, you have free will choose for yourself. Making a wrong choice for yourself is one thing, causing others harm with your choices is another thing altogether. To say that smokers cause no harm to the people around them is just rationalization. Proof? It’s not just second hand smoke that kills the innocent bystanders of this noxious habit. https://www.tommiemedia.com/news/fire-chief-smoking-materials-likely-caused-house-fire-that-killed-sophomore/

  28. Mr Larson,

    Your going off topic again. We know smoking causes deaths. We have seen the proof. You think people are logical. They are not they know the short term high may kill them down the road. That is not the issue. Is a ban practical? no people will still smoke in public. If we use your free wheeling psycoanalysis you should know these people are rebelious and will do it anyway. The passive smoking outside is unpleasent, but it wont give a non smoker cancer. It diffuses. So why not just send them to a designated smoking area instead of sending them off campus possibly at night? I think that would be the best for all parties. Saying there is ‘no debate and only truth’ is very unhelpfull for trying to solve a real world problem where people illogically smoke. I wish that nobody smoked but we have to work with what we have, and what we have IS debate because people differ within existing belief systems.

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