Recently the UC system decided to implement a ban that would make all UC’s become smoke-free by January of next year. What a great idea, right?! Seriously, who wouldn’t enjoy a smoke-free campus where you don’t have to hold your breath while you try to walk ahead of the smoker in front of you?
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We need to think of just who is affected by this ban and what it means for the UC system on a larger scale.
The individuals most affected by this ban are probably the international community. The UC system is enrolling more and more international students every year, especially here at UC Irvine. There are also a plethora of international professors and graduate students who have come to teach and learn at our campuses. But the sad reality is that these guests don’t see smoking in the same light as Americans do.
While Americans look down on the habit, smoking is an everyday habit for a lot of the individuals in the international community. They don’t perceive it to have as negative a connotation as we do. And so when they come to visit our universities and are told that they have to smoke somewhere else, they may feel put off and they may not feel welcome. It’s not like they would boycott us, but the smoking ban would inconvenience them and it could make them feel uncomfortable because yes, they do understand our aversion to the habit, but they don’t think that it’s as big a deal as we do. So there would be this slight discord between our international and local populations which, sure, isn’t life-threatening, but add that on to the adjusting problems they already have from trying to live and learn in a different country with a different language and we’ve made it harder for them to become a part of our University family. We’d be singling out a population that is already having trouble fitting in.
But regardless of if they are international or not, because this ban negatively affects more than just one sect of people, anyone who wants to smoke in the UC system will have to move off campus to do so. Yes, smoking is unhealthy. And secondhand smoke is just as bad. I don’t deny these facts. I realize how this ban is trying to create a healthier community for all, but I think we could do a better job at creating a healthier community — without such a totalitarian ban.
For example, we could create designated smoking areas around all the campuses, where people who choose to smoke could feel free to do so. They already have this type of system set up in airports, restaurants and stadiums, so why can’t we have them? It would serve the same purpose as making the campuses smoke-free, but without totally banning smoking. It would allow the UC system to walk that fine line between providing a healthy community, but still creating a welcoming atmosphere for everyone who attends one of its universities.
Similarly, we could have a quitting program on campus; something that would allow people to voluntarily give up smoking instead of forcing them. I understand that the ban calls for a gradual change in smoking policy, with optional quitting programs initiated throughout this year and after, but why can’t we have these programs before that? Why can’t we have a quitting program without the ban? If someone wants to quit, they should do it on their own terms and not someone else’s.
So I understand what this ban is trying to do and I totally agree with its purpose. But I don’t think that it is the best idea, nor is it the best option that the UC system could go with. It doesn’t convey the UC message and it doesn’t make a welcoming community for guests. But worst of all, it is essentially telling a certain group of people on campus that because no one appreciates their habits, they’re going to have to either stop or take it elsewhere. No matter how much we hate it, I don’t think we have, or should have, the right to tell someone what to do.
Alec Snavely is a third-year electrical engineering and English double major. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Filed Under: Opinion