The plans for the University’s campus-wide smoking ban are officially coming to fruition. The Smoke-free University Initiative Report — released Monday — details plans to carry-out and enforce the ban. While University officials seem optimistic about the future of the ban, it’s actually an expensive and overbearing policy. There are a variety of smoking rules in place on campus that are unenforced. And with the plans mentioned in the report, it seems that the new rules will likely make little difference in creating a smoke-free environment on campus. The University should rethink how it will implement the smoking ban and make the rules less arbitrary.
University President Mary Sue Coleman first announced plans for a smoking ban initiative in April 2009. The ban would extend to all three University campuses. After a year and a half of planning, the University released its official plans on Monday that explained how it would implement the ban, according to a Jan. 24 Daily article. The report included 14 points about where smokers could smoke on University grounds. Smoking is prohibited in all University buildings and specific University sidewalks. Smoking is also prohibited in University parking structures, unless the smoker lights a cigarette inside his or her car. The ban is set to take effect on July 1, 2011.
The rules outlined in the report are overbearing. To expect students — who aren’t full-time Ann Arbor residents — to distinguish sidewalks that run adjacent to public roads and sidewalks that run adjacent to private roads is unrealistic. And if a person is found smoking on the non-smoking sidewalks — whether they’re aware or unaware of their transgression — there is virtually no punishment. No tickets will be issued, and no arrests will be made. The only realistic outcome is that the smoker’s friend or someone in the vicinity will mention it. This is not implementation worth a $200,000 plus initiative.
Not only is the initiative largely unenforceable, it fails to recognize that there are smoking regulations in place that are unenforced. The University already has strict guidelines about smoking near campus buildings, but rarely, if ever, is the regulation made obligatory. The University should have examined why those rules weren’t functioning properly before they decided to implement a far more pervasive set of restrictions.
Despite the University’s good intentions to make the campus a healthier environment, it has no right to tell smokers they cannot smoke. Smoking is legal in the state of Michigan as long as a person isn’t smoking inside a public place. If those guidelines are effectively implemented throughout the state, the University shouldn’t create its own separate rules. And though second-hand smoke is dangerous, forcing people to quit smoking because they have nowhere to legally smoke on campus is unfair.
While the University is its own community, its purpose is to prepare young adults to enter into the real world where, like it or not, people smoke.