Does the new Wilkes smoking policy unfairly target campus smokers?

As students and faculty may already know, Wilkes University has recently changed its smoking policy on campus.

Before the fall semester commenced, Wilkes University President Patrick Leahy notified students through an email that smoking on campus would be very different.

He indicated the following: “Our new policy, scheduled to go into effect beginning Monday, August 31, 2015, establishes a smoke-free zone of 20 feet from any university building door, window, or ventilating system. This smoke-free zone is meant to eliminate exposure to second-hand smoke for people entering and exiting our facilities.”

After the declaration, there was a decent amount of celebration on campus. The new smoking policy seemed like a reasonable notion, but how fair is it really? Why should we isolate smokers and discreetly remove them from campus? I would like to add that I am not a smoker, and I feel as though the smokers on campus have been targeted.

I want to bring attention to some actions influenced by this topic, which primarily took place last semester. Pharmacy student Nicholas Stauffer promoted ideas for a non-smoking campus; he handed out brochures filled with health risks, and gave away stickers to those who supported the cause. That was a completely appropriate manner to raise awareness on campus. Some students however, took the “movement” too seriously.

For example, sidewalks were covered with statistics and negative comments towards smokers in chalk. Smokers wanted to erase the messages by pouring water over them, but they didn’t want to endanger other students by creating sheets of ice on the walkways. The approach to the situation by non-smokers was not only offensive, but also extremely immature.

Corresponding with President Leahy’s announcement, lots of students openly expressed their concerns about secondhand smoke on campus. It is well-known that secondhand smoke can be harmful, but a great deal of health effects caused by secondhand smoke are due to long-term and/or constant exposure. Occasionally walking past a smoker on campus would not put anyone at immediate risk for respiratory problems, or even lung cancer.

I also believe it was not the smokers’ fault that the designated smoking areas on campus were relatively close to building entrances. If you walk through the Greenway, you will see that there are still cigarette disposal containers less than twenty feet away from Breiseth’s and Stark’s doors.

Sophomore history major Courtney McMonagle shared her opinion on the subject matter.

“Part of me agrees with it [the smoking policy] because if they’re not supposed to smoke indoors, why should they be allowed to smoke directly outside of building doors? It seems counterintuitive. But on the other hand, this is a small campus. Where else are they supposed to smoke where they feel safe?”

“Social smoker” and senior finance major, Michael Zudjelovic, offered a different reaction. “I think the amendment to the smoking policy is perfect. We are already training our future healthcare professionals to treat symptoms rather than addressing the underlying disease of addiction [to tobacco].”

What students don’t realize is that a majority of smokers do know the risk they’re taking when they light a cigarette. Informing people about the risks of smoking is obviously responsible and encourages prevention, but in the end, it’s a personal choice.

We as a university should not discriminate against smokers just because they take part in something that isn’t necessarily accepted. Smoking cigarettes is perfectly legal.

As long as smokers don’t deliberately disturb students and dispose of their cigarettes appropriately, the smoking policy should not have required modification.