Let’s talk about the smoking ban

Newswire photo by Jeff Richardson

Two years ago, I wrote a series of articles following SGA’s attempt to make Xavier a smoke-free campus. The initiative, which was proposed by SGA senators at the time, failed, and it was determined that Xavier would remain a smoking campus.

However, I was still uneasy. One of my sources at the time told me, off the record, that it didn’t matter what the students decided in the forum regarding a smoke-free campus because the administration would be making campus tobacco-free a few years down the line anyway.

Thus, here we are: The administration is attempting to ban all tobacco and nicotine products on campus. And I’m pissed.

Look, I’ll admit, I’m a smoker. So of course I’d be upset about an attempt to make campus smoke-free out of self-interest. But that’s not what this is about.

I’m not pissed that they’re saying this is a supportive attempt to try to help people quit smoking. Everyone agrees that smoking isn’t good. It’s incredibly unhealthy, and something should be done so that fewer people smoke. I would gladly welcome help to quit smoking, like the kind the administration has proposed will be made readily available.

I’m pissed because the administration has a specific power because of the nature of this particular type of institution: Every five years, nearly the entire student body will be different. This means that, with pretty much any administrative idea they want that meets resistance from students, all an administration will have to do is wait a few years for the protests to die down. After all, there will be a completely different student body.

One way to address this problem is to have a legacy of student activism, a core group of students who stand together, fight together against administrative power and pass on the lessons that they’ve learned on how to stand up against an administration that has far more time and resources than the students do, a group that knows how to pass down the lessons of utilizing power that they’ve learned.

However, Xavier doesn’t have this. Yet. Our administration is too “good” to us. We’ve been privileged to have an administration that claims to stand against racism and create committees with student seats on them, an administration that creates five-year plans to address issues of injustice on campus.

This sure worked well when the administration made itself out to be a tragic character that had no other choice but to give Chartwells an essential monopoly on food options on campus (tragedy, here, in the Niebuhrian sense).

So now, to return to the smoking issue. Members of the administration claim this to be an issue of wellness. They say that it’s time to join the hundreds, if not thousands, of other institutions that are entirely smoke- and nicotine-free campuses.

I agree that it’s an issue of well-being. Smoking is a problem. I wish that I didn’t smoke — it’s an expensive addiction that is damaging to my health. However, prohibition, the banning of all sale and consumption, is a strategy that has never worked well. I mean, alcohol prohibition didn’t work. The war on drugs has done nothing but damage communities through the mechanisms of mass incarceration. It’s definitely hyperbolic to compare our college campus banning the consumption of tobacco and nicotine on its property to these issues, but my point is that prohibiting smoking won’t stop it.

The solution is through building a campus community that supports people and helps them quit. Currently, members of the administration are looking at community cessation models to help faculty, staff and students quit smoking when the ban inevitably passes.

So, my question is this: Why the ban at all?

If you care about well-being and acknowledge the difficulties of ending addiction, if you’re looking toward community cessation models, then why not simply start there?

There seems to be no point in banning these products at Xavier if the administration itself acknowledges that prohibition won’t work, unless the ultimate goal is to get “no smoking anywhere” into a rulebook.

So, I’d like to ask the administration to do something different than the hundreds, if not thousands, of other campuses across the nation that have banned smoking and consumption of nicotine -related products on campus: create a community that helps people quit without resorting to the simplicity of a ban. Look past the idea that the university has no choice but to either ban it or not.

Of course, they could also just wait a few more years.

Kevin Thomas is the Managing Editor for the Newswire. He is an English and philosophy double major from St. Louis.