To the Daily:
University President Mary Sue Coleman deserves nothing but respect and admiration for her courageous stand in favor of public health and against the tobacco industry. The desperate accusations of a conflict of interest, led by Robert Soave’s Tuesday column, are nothing more than the hopeless efforts of a raucous minority (Coleman’s smoking gun, 04/05/2010).
The fact is that Coleman is following over 260 other campus communities with the ban, including Ball State, Indiana, Iowa and Purdue. More importantly, there is absolutely no evidence that the tobacco cessation products the University subsidizes will be Johnson & Johnson products. To put it more simply, there has yet to be any real evidence of a conflict of interest.
The forces of dissent have frantically tried to make this initiative a referendum on Coleman. Opponents fail to see what this initiative is truly about: public health. Smoking not only causes sickness and death to those who choose it, it also harms those who happen to be around. While damages due to second hand smoke in open air are small, a public university like ours shouldn’t accept any risk to innocent bystanders. That is why the co-chairs for the Smoke-Free Initiative are Kenneth Warner, the dean of the School of Public Health, and Dr. Robert Winfield, the director of University Health Services. Those who study public health and medicine know that Coleman is making the right decision for public health.
When I was seven, my grandmother died from lung cancer, caused by smoking. Hopefully, with leaders like Coleman, fewer children will have to endure the heartache that so many of our generation have endured. At the very least, we will be able to breathe easier when we walk to class, literally.