On July 1, and without much of a fuss, the University campus became smoke free. Taking a page out of the nanny state constitution, it seems that the University believes personal choice is subordinate to the lifestyle they want to instill in their students. With the smoking ban, the University has created an imperious policy that infringes on the rights of the individual. University officials have little business instructing a person on how they indulge their leisure time. If an individual wants to smoke cigarettes outdoors, they should be allowed to. To this end, the University must reverse the overbearing and overtly-parental smoking ban.
On the most basic level, the ban is an infringement of personal freedoms. People will still be able to smoke in other places, but the University has gone above and beyond any state and federal law to ban smoking outdoors while on campus. The harm of second hand smoke outdoors versus other pollution, like car exhaust, is dubious. Bylaws already in existence allowed students to order smokers to move away from resident hall doors and windows to prevent secondhand smoke exposure. While it may be a public nuisance, and smoke may be disagreeable, there are many things students do, like listening to loud music, that may be irritating but shouldn’t be banned from campus. Smoking outside is simply a person enjoying themselves, often by themselves, and it’s a travesty of individual rights for it to be banned.
The University takes pride and is often right to claim itself as a bastion of liberalism and progress. This is a campus that produced Tom Hayden and Students for a Democratic Society, but somehow we’ve turned this progressivism around and started telling students how to think and what to do. Not only does the University tell students that they aren’t allowed to smoke, but it hopes to encourage a peer regulated system to stamp out smoking. Rather than issuing tickets, the University wants members of the campus community to report smokers to be reprimanded. This self policing policy costs students close to $250,000. This money would have been spent far better elsewhere.
According to a June 19 Michigan Daily article, 14 percent of undergraduates smoke. If it were a larger cohort there would be much more backlash. Smoking has become an unpopular activity, but that doesn’t mean we should drive smokers away or make them feel unwelcome. Everyone has their vices and to stop them simply because we think it’s in their best interests is a dangerous game to play. A political and media war has been waged against tobacco so the ban feels almost natural, but such overbearing and intrusive regulation seems unfit at the University of Michigan. The students at this school pay a handsome sum to attend classes here and to participate in this environment. We should let them blow off some steam, on or off campus, and if that that’s how they choose to spend their time and money, the University shouldn’t be saying otherwise.