Study needed to decide smoke-free policy


Editorial Board

Issue: Many states, cities and even universities have banned smoking. The question is if that would be what SDSU wants.

The current causes of our generation, it seems, is to “go green” and become healthier. No wonder so many cities and even states are passing more ordinances and laws to help speed up this process, including laws that require public places or semi-public places to become smoke-free.

It has been a year since Minnesota went smoke-free in all bars, restaurants and other establishments. It is not the only state to do this. Though South Dakota has looked into something similar, nothing has taken place yet.

That doesn’t mean that universities haven’t been looking into going smoke free, as well. There are now at least 160 campuses that are 100% smoke-free, both indoors and outside, with no exemptions, according to American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. These include the University of Iowa, Minnesota State University-Moorhead, Boise State University and the University of North Dakota. Others have smoke free policies with minor exemptions for remote outdoor areas, including University of California-San Francisco, University of Southern Florida, Youngstown State University and Oklahoma State University-Stillwater.

According to the newspaper at the University of Minnesota, the MN Daily, the U of M is also looking into a smoke-free campus. A campus-wide smoking survey was developed to administer to faculty, staff and students in October so that they could see what people’s attitudes toward smoking were, since the administration would obviously not want to adopt a policy that no one would support.

The majority of smokers at SDSU are conscientious about the fact that other people around them might not want to breathe in their smoke and respect those people. However, there unfortunately are times when students walking down a sidewalk encounter a smoker and are forced to breathe in that second-hand smoke for at least a few seconds during the day. Along parts of campus where the walkway is narrow, such as along the sidewalk running by the track, where walkers are hemmed in by construction, it is especially difficult to avoid unwanted smoke.

That’s not to say that the smokers on campus shouldn’t be allowed to do so – it is a personal choice. Their rights should not be infringed upon, but the nonsmokers have rights, as well. Therein lies the dilemma – who is to say whose rights are more important?

A democracy, by definition, involves a community getting together and voting, and the majority decision rules. As the U.S. is a democracy, the question then is what does the majority of SDSU want?

Surveys and other research should be conducted as to whether this is the policy that would be best for SDSU. And if, by some chance, the majority of students, faculty and staff decide SDSU should be smoke-free, at least to some extent with a few exceptions, then the students that smoke should be accommodated to some extent, with designated areas being easily accessible and sheltered in some way to make it so that going to that area to smoke is less of a burden. This is South Dakota, after all, and winters can get cold.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a goal to have student smoking down to 12 percent by 2010. With this goal in mind, it would be interesting to see what the majority at SDSU wants for the campus and future generations who decide to come here.

Stance: People’s opinions need to be voiced. The research needs to be done in order to gauge SDSU’s need for a smoking ban on campus.