Chancellor Sorensen and I have at least one thing in common: we’ve both seen an increase in the number of students smoking on campus. The problem, though, is that the University of Wisconsin-Stout has a campus-wide ban on smoking.
What is the punishment for not complying with this ban? Well, the punishment is supposed to be “social disapproval.” To illustrate what I mean, imagine that a student started walking around campus wearing their backpack on their chest instead of their back. They would probably get a bunch of weird looks, right? It’s supposed to be kinda like that– but it’s not working.
On April 10, 2012, Chancellor Sorensen reaffirmed his support of the campus-wide smoking ban.
“Most of our students, faculty and staff are complying with this policy,” said Sorensen, “but those who choose to violate it are making life difficult for everyone else. Therefore, I would like to restate my strong support for the policy and the need for compliance.”
There are a few things wrong with this statement. First of all, “most of [the] students, faculty and staff” probably don’t smoke, so it’s inherently easy for them to comply with the policy. As for the evildoers who “choose to violate [the policy],” they are making life difficult for everyone else! Except, no one seems to be saying anything about it– at least to the extent that would make the ban regulatable.
This leaves UW-Stout with two options: either remove the campus-wide smoking ban entirely or punish those who don’t abide by this ban. In his public statement to the campus, Chancellor Sorensen noted that he prefers voluntary compliance, but added that UW-Stout is “now considering further measures to ensure that this campus is tobacco-free, including instituting fines or other sanctions for violators.”
Personally, I feel that this issue doesn’t affect the majority of students, but rather polarizes smokers against those that are avidly against it. I understand that second-hand smoke is an annoyance and a health issue; I also understand that this campus would like to build and maintain a health-conscious reputation. However, adding another layer of regulation would cost money, and that simply isn’t something that the UW System has a lot of right now.
In my opinion, smokers should have “designated” smoking areas on campus. This way, UW-Stout can eliminate the need to pay officers to enforce the ban and students that want to avoid breathing in second-hand smoke would know which areas to stay away from.
Of course, if UW-Stout really wants to eliminate this problem once in for all, maybe it’s time to confront Big Tobacco? Until then, let’s keep this issue in perspective. Certainly, there are bigger social problems to address.