With the increasing popularity of smoking bans, the announcement of a proposed ban at Minnesota State was inevitable.
The extensiveness of the ban, along with other details, are still in planning stages, but banning an addiction is going to polarize the campus.
On one side, smokers will say it limits their freedom and puts them at a great inconvenience; non-smokers will argue secondhand smoke, no matter how brief the exposure, will hinder their health.
As a society, we are moving toward a smoke-free environment, both in private and public places. Smoking bans are gaining acceptance, but resistance is always an issue.
Before MSU makes any decision, it needs to thoroughly research how populations at other universities are reacting to smoking bans. This year, at least two institutions – the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and Minnesota State Moorhead – enacted significant smoking bans.
To enforce a total ban at a university and at restaurants and bars are hard to compare; a smoker at a bar would simply step outside to have a drag, while a student or faculty member would have to cross campus in some instances, with the worries of making it back in time for another class or meeting. In below-zero weather, any distance becomes long distance.
Smokers, however, will break the rules if a ban is enacted; it is impossible to monitor the thousands of smokers at MSU. The current policy, which prohibits smoking within 15 feet of 25 entrances to various on-campus buildings, has not been effective.
If smoking at MSU becomes more restricted, the university should at least designate an area for smokers. A ban – which could come as soon as Summer 2008, according to MSU President Richard Davenport – is too much, too soon, especially if it is sweeping.
As public smoking inches toward becoming taboo, it will likely be banned in all common areas some day.
For now, the university needs to play it safe and do its homework, even if that means holding off any ban for several years. Ban or no ban, it is impossible to please everyone, but to accommodate the majority and major minority means waiting for society as a whole to slowly shift to a smoke-free existence.
We have a long way to go.