In support of a tobacco-free campus

In support of a tobacco-free campus

Photo courtesy of mag3737 via Flickr Creative Commons

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.

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  1. Blue_Jay2201-15-2013

    Sweet. I am surprised a college such as CofC would even think of this, but I’m also happy. One thing my friends say when they visit me here is “It’s like walking in cancer” AND THEY ARE RIGHT. What if someone doesn’t want to inhale your second hand product before going to class? It’s disgusting and very unattractive. Smoke-free campus FTW (for the win)!

  2. Tank01-15-2013

    So let me get this straight, you are against giving people the choice about how to live their lives and want to take away their ability to choose because you do not believe students are wise enough to make their own health decisions. Here’s the thing, you say it is counter-productive to academic success? Well tobacco is a stimulant, so lets ban coffee too because it has the same effects psychologically, as it is also a stimulant.

    You make the argument that smoking damages the mind, if that’s the case how come I had a 3.8 last semester as a smoker myself? How come some of our societies greatest leaders have been smokers? Would you have tried to say that Tobacco made General MacArthur a lesser leader? Tobacco is a stimulant, like coffee, and actually can boost academic prowess if consumed in moderation.

    Where does it end? As you said, there are a large number of tobacco users on campus, so why do you want to restrict their rights to freedom of choice? I find it disturbing that you do not have faith in your classmates to make decisions on their own about their own health choices, which I guarantee tobacco users understand the risks, and feel you have to make it for them.

    Changes which takes away rights are not progressive, they are regressive. I will leave you with this one last thought: Understand that this will have a negative impact on the freedom of college students to make their own health decisions as adults, and would be a smack in the face to us as free-minded individuals. If you want to go the route of the tyrant and take away our ability to make our own decisions, you will be undermining the free-spirit that this country was founded on, and the freedom of thought and choice that is supposed to be the academic world of college.

    – Tank

    • Fed01-15-2013

      Drinking Coffee doesn’t hurt anyone else. Your decision to blow smoke on public sidewalks and not giving me the ability to breathe fresh air without the fear of lung cancer inducing smoke infringes on my rights. Designate some smoking areas around campus away from building entrances and sidewalks and call it a day.

      • Hillairy01-15-2013

        I think you’ll find that that is exactly what the policy is now. The campus HAS designated smoking areas, and smoking is prohibited within 25 feet of building entrances. And, with the draconian implementation of Charleston City Council’s vote to prohibit smoking on public sidewalks, you’ll be all set. Day called, no action needed!

  3. Martin01-15-2013

    I absolutely agree with you Erica – there will still be countless area’s within walking distance where tobacco users can light up without affecting and harming other students, faculty, and staff. I don’t mean to judge or disenfranchise any student, but I implore smokers to think about and be more considerate of the numerous members of the campus community who are forced to breath the harmful effects of their individual choice. I strongly support the smoke free measure and I appreciate the leadership of SGA on this issue!

  4. Lindsay01-15-2013

    I smoke a cigarette in route to my next class. I have a excellent average and I am a hard working student. Cigarette’s are a stimulant. When you are tired, a cigarette will wake you up. It also relieves stress and as all of you know, school is very stressful. I do not have time to find a random place I can smoke off campus with 10 minutes in between classes to get from one side of the campus to the other.

    It also is our choice to kill our lungs. I blow my smoke into the air, not into other students faces. I also have yet to hear a complaint from another student about the smoke. MUSC is one thing and we are completely different. We do not have sick people all around us, main reason they did that. I used to work there and agreed with that situation. You do not want to make a sick person, sicker. Also, other factors differentiate between us and MUSC.

    Then the study about 40% of freshman taking up smoking if they live in residence halls where smoking is permitted is an easy situation to fix. Don’t smoke in the resident hall buildings. I do not live on campus but in my own home, we smoke outside. Those streets on and around the campus is public roads and sidewalks.

    I have seen non students walking down them smoking as well to there destinations. You also have people that live on campus grounds in the homes for rent that don’t go to College of Charleston. There are restaurants and parking garages which are not owned by College of Charleston. Also, you need to let new and transfer students know where the designated smoking areas are. Put up signs because no one knows or tells you. We were given the right of freedom and free will. We should be able to have the freedom to do what free will we have left. Don’t take that away from us.

  5. Gracie01-15-2013

    I am unable to attend the meeting because I have to work, but I wish I could. Lindsay is correct, our campus is different in that it’s located in the heart of the city and many many non students work, live, park, and just walk down the street there. You don’t have the power to stop them from smoking, as they don’t attend the college and aren’t required to follow these policies. But more importantly, we are adults. We can make adult decisions. This is not a high school, it’s a higher learning institution. Students should be able to make their own decisions, and it’s ludicrous to try to stop smokers from smoking outside, in distant designated locations. It’s outdoors for goodness sakes. That’s the City of Charleston’s domain. And the campus is located smack dab in the middle of the City. Yeah, it’s reasonable to put No Smoking signs right outside doorways, I get that, the smoke gets inside and bothers people. We already have those. Just enforce them better, boom, you’re done. The addition of more ashtrays would be nice, and would solve the problem of cigarette butts, which bothers people more than the smoke in my opinion, especially those who have to pick them up. Even in areas where smoking is allowed there are barely any and you have to walk a half mile to a trash can to toss the cigarette butt. Also, we have a pretty big campus with a lot of wide open spaces and honestly a pretty vaguely defined border. If I’m just walking downtown and I happen to pass through campus and I’m smoking do I have to put out my cigarette? Am I allowed to smoke on Calhoun Street, if not, how far down should I walk so that I can? Can I smoke in my car if I’m driving to work through campus? I’ve lived in Charleston my entire life, and I highly doubt this will go over well with the locals and the people who live and work around the campus who will be hassled for not following rules that don’t apply to them. Try to get a chef at any restaurant located “on campus” such as Caviar and Bananas to stop taking their smoke break. It’s not gonna happen. It’s unrealistic. And MUSC is a completely different situation. They are a non-smoking campus because they are a hospital, and all hospitals are non-smoking campuses, for obvious reasons. Let us worry about our heath and enjoy a cigarette in between classes. We’re adults, as I said, and we know the risks. Maybe it’s stupid, but we smoke anyway. If freshman are smoking, that’s their fault, their choice. Forbidding it will probably just make them want to do it more.

  6. Meredith01-15-2013

    I’m not going to say I love the reasoning of this article. It smacks of, “Well, the majority thinks this, so let’s do it.” And I don’t think that’s really fair. I’m a huge proponent of getting rid of tobacco on campus (or more realistically, having a few small areas to smoke and an enforced ban on the rest of campus). A lot of people here are comparing cigarettes to coffee. Yes, cigarettes help you get through your day and give you a pick-me-up. But yeah, they adversely affect the health of others. Coffee doesn’t. It’s still addictive, it’s still a pick-me-up, but it doesn’t hurt anyone but you.

    The thing is, your rights begin where mine end, and vice versa. You have the right to smoke cigarettes to get you through your day- as long as it doesn’t keep me from going about mine. Cigarettes do affect non-smokers’ health in the long-term, yes, but just as important, its effects are acute for many students. I have migraines that are quite often triggered or worsened by simply trying to get to class…because smokers’ right to do their thing is apparently more important than me being able to attend class, pay attention, or really do anything besides lay in bed and suffer. I have three or four other friends with the exact same problem, and others who have asthma or respiratory problems which are triggered by smoke. You may be the minority when it comes to smoking, but we’re a minority when it comes to physically ability to tolerate the smoke you create. And we have rights, too.

    So go ahead, smoke away. In a particular area. Out of the way, so others can go about their day. Because really, others shouldn’t have to stop theirs because they can’t breathe without triggering their illnesses. I’d like to be able to breathe again on the way to class.

  7. mat catastrophe01-26-2013

    If only the smokers had guns, this tragedy of the commons would never have taken place.

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