Students debate merit of smoke-free campus

As campuses around the nation begin to participate in the gradual shift towards being smoke-free, many are left wondering if Utica College will be next.

Influential private colleges such as the University of Vermont, Georgia State University, Marywood University, and even Syracuse University have all recently taken the step to declaring themselves tobacco-free. This means that no forms of tobacco are allowed, as “smoke-free” means that all non-combustible forms of tobacco are allowed (meaning electronic cigarettes and vaporizers).

While many individuals may consider this an obvious move in the right direction encouraging healthier, safer habits for students, it has left some room for disagreement. Issues such as a student’s rights to their bodies and health choices must be taken into consideration.

Arguments could certainly be made against a smoke-free campus, defending the rights of college kids to make their own choices and be treated as adults.

“Problems typically arise when you make a big change like this and tell students that they aren’t allowed to do something that they previously could,” Adam Zielenski, a former Utica College student and cybersecurity major, said.

Zielenski raises a valid point, as individuals are often hesitant to drastic changes.

This hesitation was proven true at Georgia State University in an article featured in USA Today titled “If you want a smoke, chances are you’ll be having it off campus” by Megan Reed, where student body president Sebastian Parra claims some students still use tobacco products on campus despite its tobaccofree policy that was set almost four years ago in 2012.

Opposition can also be witnessed at the University of Vermont, also from USA Today, where student government president Jason Maulucci claims that the reactions were “very mixed”.

“People who are opposed say they have the right to decide what’s good and what’s not for their bodies,” Maulucci said.

However, many argue that the benefits are undeniable and necessary.

“I think it’s a great stride for the college to make,” education student Francesca Murad said. “Second-hand smoke is distracting and really unpleasant for a lot of students, and smoking is just downright unhealthy for everyone.”

Aside from the health risks of second-hand smoke that this policy would eliminate, it could also help to encourage incoming freshman to make the choice to not begin smoking. Along with this prevention, this may make it easier for those who are trying to quit to break the habit more easily due to the inconvenience of having to smoke off campus.

“A tobacco-free policy would be a really respectable move on Utica College’s part,” Michael Russo, a current student at Mohawk Valley Community College, said. “Of course, it’s a bold decision, but it’s no news flash that smoking is bad. This restriction simply makes it more obvious, just like restaurants and other facilities have already done.”

But does the idea of a smoke-free campus threaten our rights as members of a democracy? Or does Utica College’s code of conduct make a decision like this acceptable?

Students reserve the right to develop strong opinions on such a matter. Currently, the situation is just an idea of a possibility down the road, but there is certainly no smoke without fire.