Until last year, Transy provided a space on campus for student to smoke. The smoking circle (or smircle—seriously) was located at the back of Forrer; it was a small space, probably no more than 100 square feet. By the start of this academic year, however, Transy had eliminated the space and declared the entirety of campus smoking-free. This is a poor decision on Transy’s part.
To explain why, it may be helpful to establish a few facts on the ground. The first thing we need to establish is how many people at Transy actually smoke; unfortunately, there is no readily available Transy-specific data to answer that question (at least at this time). However, according to the most recent available Gallup data, Kentucky is the national leader in the number of people who smoke. Nearly a third of Kentuckians smoke. Considering that the population of Transy is predominantly drawn from Kentucky itself, it seems reasonable to say that, in the absence of hard data available to students, there are probably more than a few smokers in the student population. It is almost certainly true that among faculty, administration, and staff, who are by definition part of Kentucky’s population, there are more than a few smokers.
The second thing we need to establish is what exactly Transy wants to accomplish by making the entire campus smoke-free. Absent a definitive statement from the administration (that I’m aware of at this time), it seems fair to say that Transy is seeking to improve the public health of the Transy community. It’s reasonable to assume that this measure is more-or-less targeted most heavily at the student population that lives here. In other words, we can assume with a high degree of confidence that Transy wants to discourage Transy students from smoking, and wants to do so by making it inconvenient to do so while at Transy.
Accomplishing this goal could, I think, take two forms. The first is that, by making the campus smoke-free, Transy wants to discourage prospective students who smoke from coming to campus in the first place, and by discouraging current students who smoke from continuing to do so. And here is where we see how Transy has made a poor decision.
First, the prospective students. As many of you know, the current first-year class numbers under the enrollment targets Transy sought to hit last enrollment season. That is to say, Transy is not in a position to discourage many students from applying. Beggars (or heavily-leveraged universities) cannot be choosers. Transy has, for little gain, handicapped itself in the search for students.
We can say this because we know that it’s very hard to quit smoking. Most smokers want to quit; all smokers, by definition, have not quit. So we know a large percentage wants to quit but doesn’t. There is a massive difference from wanting to quit and actually trying out methods that can make this possible. If you feel that a certain approach will work best for you, why not give it a go. For example, some people who are on this journey have looked into using vaping devices. As there are many to choose from like the Flowermate or the PAX, for a beginner it may be difficult to decide on which one to go for, which is why doing your research is beneficial. It is not impossible to quit. You just need to be motivated enough to do it and once you are, just go for it. It shouldn’t just be cigarette smokers looking to cut down on their tobacco intake. Weed users may want to consider using a vaporizer instead of the traditional methods of inhalation. A popular vape battery is the 510 batteries. This is definitely worth considering for any smokers out there.
From this we can conclude that there is a significant addictive drive for smokers to continue smoking. And on this basis we can further conclude that, given that the Transy campus is fairly small, most current students who smoke will not be too likely to quit smoking over the issue of walking a half-block or so. So simply on the basis that Transy is unlikely to get current students to quit, we can say that Transy is not making a particularly good decision by removing a space on campus for students to smoke. But is it a bad one?
In a word, yes. Because while students are unlikely to be deterred from smoking by walking that half-block, that doesn’t mean that forcing students off-campus to smoke doesn’t have significant effects. By doing so, Transy removes some of the protections it offers to students when they are on-campus. Campus is well-lit, it is patrolled by its own policing force—any point of trouble can be quickly met and resolved. Further, though there are no physical boundaries around campus, it is not for nothing that we call it the “bubble”; the general public does not make a habit of traipsing about the plaza or green space. Consider that many smokers will take their last cigarette shortly before turning in for the night; for many college students that’s quite a late hour. And, of course, the night is generally when most muggings and so forth take place. It’s not ridiculous to say that there exists a lower risk of physical violence occurring on-campus as opposed to off-campus.
Further, by removing any space for students to smoke, Transy is quite literally telling those students that they are not welcome to both smoke and be at Transy. It seems to me that this is very likely to create a stigmatizing effect. And since we’ve established that most smokers are unlikely to quit, this stigmatizing serves no practical purpose. A considerable portion of a liberal arts education is encouraging students to explore and make decisions for themselves; stigmatizing some of those decisions seems, to me at least, to be unfairly nudging the scales, even if the decision you’re nudging against is bad for someone’s health. It’s a needless negative effect of Transy’s decision.
Now, it’s possible to consider another rationale for making the campus smoke-free: Transy may consider the secondhand smoke effect on nonsmoking students a sufficient threat to Transy students that it wants to remove it. However, if that is the case I would remind you that nearly a third of Kentuckians smoke, and they breathe the same air that circulates on Transy’s campus. Further, since Transy’s previous policy placed all smokers outside, it seems a little silly to maintain that the open air would become uniquely deadened and immobile just where the smokers gathered. In short, any secondhand smoke effect is likely to be so negligible as to be nonexistent.
So, let’s recap. Transy’ new policy of a smoke-free campus is not likely to cut the number of smoking students down significantly, is more likely to expose students to off-campus dangers, is likely to stigmatize smoking students, and is not likely to affect non-smoking students’ health in a serious way. The new policy, in other words, doesn’t accomplish what it seems designed to, and comes with serious downsides. It is a poor decision, and Transy should thus return to the previous policy allowing a space on campus for students to smoke.
Author’s Note: I do not myself smoke. I understand it’s quite bad for you.