A smoke-free campus won't help students

Making campus smoke-free would alienate students who smoke, when what they really need is support and acceptance to help them quit.

On Oct. 20, AMS Assembly began with a presentation by a representative of the Ontario Public Health Unit about the possibility of making Queen’s a smoke-free campus. The longer I listened to the proposal, the more convinced I became that it’s both unrealistic and detrimental to student smokers.

While a smoke-free campus wouldn’t subject students to sanctions if caught smoking on campus, the proposal included the idea of posting “no smoking allowed” signage around campus. The hope would be to encourage a “cultural shift” that discourages tobacco use due to its damaging effects on people’s health. 

There are logistical issues with this. But what’s most important to understand is that smoking is addictive and quitting isn’t simple.

Growing up, our generation was inundated with advertisements and educational materials explicitly explaining the detriments of smoking. We’ve grown up looking at the graphic photos on the backs of cigarette packs and watching the TV commercials where loved ones are killed by lung cancer.

We know smoking is bad for you. But at a certain point, it comes down to a choice. 

Students don’t need the AMS to control their lives, and they don’t need the AMS to produce a “cultural shift” on campus that has already occurred on a global scale. The AMS need not remind them that their addiction is harmful — they already know.

What students need is to make their own personal choices. Under this policy, a student smoker would be forced to migrate off campus, alienating students from the University and possibly discouraging them from participating in on-campus events or clubs. 

Furthermore, faculty and other staff members would have their agency wrongfully limited under this paternalistic policy.

The one positive point of the proposal suggested nicotine replacement and smoking cessation therapy could be provided through the Wellness Centre at no cost to those who choose to quit smoking.

Instead of engaging in a futile attempt to discourage addicts from engaging in a behaviour they already know is harmful, the AMS should offer help to students who want to quit but can’t.

Supporting students who choose to quit should be the focus, not alienating students for their struggles with addiction.

Maureen is one of The Journal’s Assistant News Editors. She’s a third-year English major.

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