Walking outside Susan B. Anthony Residence Halls, I smelled something.
There were two people sitting on the bench, smoking. With one hand each on the back of the bench, they looked like they had just been fired by their employers. Smoking people always give me the impression that they’ve just failed at something. As I walked past them, my nose reacted with disgust.
I was diagnosed with allergic rhinitis when I was still in elementary school, meaning I sneeze a lot, even if I don’t have a cold. Every time there’s a building under construction, I can’t stop sneezing.
Allergic rhinitis is not fatal, but it’s not fun when people say “bless you” seven times in a row. Smoke, in this case, is one of the most common allergens. Thus, whenever my dad would smoke at home, I would push him into a room that had windows. Although I took medicine to control my allergic rhinitis this year, it won’t stop it completely.
By enforcing the policy of non-smoking on college campuses, the administration helps people who have issues with smoke. Thanks to the policy, I will no longer be in a campus job interview where I can’t stop sneezing because smoke had gotten into my nose a few minutes earlier.
But what if it’s just a placebo?
I would love to assume that this policy will be well-applied to all campuses, but one thing that all of us should be aware of is that addiction to nicotine is hard to overcome, just like addiction to caffeine. A person who drinks a latte every morning to keep their energy up would not suddenly want to stop drinking coffee.
Even if they does, they will crash in the morning. They might not be able to focus on their MTH 161 class. They could miss the part about how to calculate the derivative of a function, which may directly affect their ability to learn the upcoming anti-derivative chapter, as well as the applications of differentiation. In addition to just having a bad score on their upcoming midterm, they might struggle with the following MTH 162, 164, and 165 classes.
The same thing happens with nicotine. There’s no way we could expect everyone who smokes to stop smoking next July. People need time to get used to life without smoking during class breaks. Adjustment requires time.
Of course, some outdoor smoking shelters will be installed on the River Campus, and there will be some free tobacco-cessation programs that could help smokers get rid of their addiction to nicotine. But what will mostly likely happen is that people will discover myriad ways to smoke secretly—inside or outside the building.
A few days ago, a friend told me that a freshman was smoking beside Lovejoy Hall. That’s obviously fewer than 30 feet away from a campus building. Even those who saw him smoking probably would not bother to report it.
After 10 minutes, the smoke dispersed and the guy was gone. Nobody would know that he violated the University smoking policy.
The same thing could happen even after the July 2017 policy change.
Staff and students would be able to smoke outdoors if they remained hidden. It’s virtually impossible to watch the entire campus, even with a surveillance system, and the University could barely do anything but send e-mails to community members reminding them to not smoke outside the designated areas.
As for students who want a non-smoking campus—it’s just a placebo. Posting about how well a school is doing with a strict non-smoking policy makes them feel more comfortable and the campus seem more environmentally friendly, when people never really stopped smoking.
So what can we do to reduce people’s usage of tobacco and create a smoke-free campus if an ultimatum from the administration wouldn’t work?
One thing we should be conscious of is that nothing can be eliminated forever. It’s impossible for all smokers to stop using tobacco, even if they are given a long period of time to adjust. Self-control is at the core of smoking cessation.
We may not be able to do anything about smokers who have used cigarettes for 20 years. But what we can do is to educate our kids about the dangers of smoking. Parents could more effectively prevent their children from stepping onto the no-return boat of smoking.
There will, of course, still be people trying to smoke because they want to be cool. There is no absolute zero in the world.