To the Daily:
In recent weeks, Daily columnists Robert Soave and Alex Biles have condemned the University’s campus-wide smoking ban as an assault on personal liberty (Coleman’s smoking gun, 04/06/2010, Dear President Coleman…, 03/25/2010).
Though I agree that the ban is illiberal and paternalistic, it also seems unfair that non-smokers must pay higher health care costs to subsidize smokers’ poor decisions. Instead of issuing an outright ban on smoking, the University should sell on-campus smoking permits. With a nationally renowned public health school, the University should be able to estimate how much smoking would increase an individual’s health care costs over the period of a semester, and this would be the cost of a permit. Purchasers of the permit would be able to smoke in designated areas on campus and could present their permit to any DPS officer. Anyone smoking on campus without a permit would receive a sizable fine, the fees of which would go toward administrative costs for the program.
The selling of permits is preferable to both the upcoming ban and the status quo. Though the ban will restrict personal liberty, not having a ban forces responsible, intelligent people to indirectly bankroll smokers by paying higher health care costs. Issuing permits would allow individuals to make personal decisions, but would also put the onus on them to pay for the consequences.