In light of the discussion regarding the possibility of the College becoming a tobacco-free campus, SGA President Erica Arbetter shares her thoughts on the matter. A resolution in support of the decision will be presented at SGA’s first meeting of the semester on Tuesday, Jan. 15. Students wishing to voice their opinion may do so at the meeting, which starts at 4:30 p.m. in the Stern Center Ballroom. CisternYard News will post the results of the vote shortly after a decision is made.
I support a tobacco-free campus for what it will provide long-term, which is make the College of Charleston a healthier, cleaner and all-around more productive place to live and learn.
Who among us doesn’t want that?
I will say, this decision was not an easy one; it took a lot of careful planning and consideration. After all, so many of our students are avid tobacco users. A simple stroll through campus will affirm this. Even so, there is a push from students to go tobacco-free and the response to the proposed policy has been overwhelmingly positive.
This inherent conflict prompted me to examine the issue as it relates to our institution’s three core values of educational excellence, a student-focused culture and a respect for our greater community. At this point, it became obvious that tobacco-free is exactly the direction in which our college needs to move.
The academic argument is clear: healthy students learn better than unhealthy students and tobacco-free environments are healthier than those that are tobacco-tolerant.
Every year, tobacco causes more deaths than AIDS, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor-vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined. As the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States, condoning tobacco use only perpetuates the problem. If the College wants to enhance the overall well-being of its students, then it must make our campus tobacco-free.
Additionally, as a student-focused institution, the College has the responsibility to act in the best interest of the students, which is, in this case, to reduce the number of tobacco users on campus. Not only is there no safe exposure to cigarette smoke, but there is no safe exposure to cigarettes either. A recent study found that college freshmen who didn’t smoke regularly were 40 percent more likely to “take up smoking” if they lived in residence halls where smoking was permitted. Moreover, only 7 percent successfully quit post graduation after developing the habit during their undergrad years.
We must remember the difference between what one has a right to do and what is right to do.
Furthermore, in order to honor our neighbors, the College has to look no further than next door. The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) is home to the Hollings Cancer Center, which is the only National Cancer Institute in the state. It has been 100 percent tobacco-free since March 1, 2012.
MUSC is one of over 1,130 institutions of higher education in the United States that has adopted smoke or tobacco-free campus policies.
The way I see it, the College has two choices: it can continue to be part of the problem or it can put its foot down, say enough is enough, and be part of the solution.
Some may ask whether the policy is enforceable or even feasible for a municipal liberal arts college in the South, and the answer is “yes.” With an enforcement policy that empowers the individual, this movement is not about big sticks and wrist slaps. Rather, it is about social responsibility and taking a leadership role, not for immediate results, but for long-term, sustainable success.
Change takes time, but it is also inevitable.
*The views in this article represent the opinion of the author, and not those of CisternYard News.