Editorial: It’s time to ban smoking on campus

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

On Wednesday, Oct. 1, the University of Georgia will start enforcing a campus-wide tobacco ban, joining a growing trend in higher education. 

In 2010, fewer than 450 colleges prohibited cigarettes, a number that has since grown to nearly 1,500. 

While questions remain about the use of smokeless tobacco and simulated tobacco smoking, such as e-cigarettes, universities are justified in banning cigarette smoking on campus grounds. Pitt should, too. 

Students should have the right to smoke and use tobacco as they wish, so long as such use occurs on their own property. However, because of Pitt’s urban environment, many non-students pass through University property on a daily basis, which can complicate the matter. Even so, the University has the right to establish policy for its own property, especially when such policy concerns public health.

Numerous studies have shown that even secondhand smoke is a detriment to one’s health. It is hard to imagine an individual living in 2014 who isn’t aware of this. According to the American Cancer Society, “tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemical compounds. More than 250 of these chemicals are known to be harmful, and at least 69 are known to cause cancer.”

Tobacco smoke, no matter how much or little someone inhales, is harmful to one’s health. Students should not be involuntarily exposed to such a well-known health hazard. If the University fails to act on the dangers of smoking tobacco, that’s a failure in taking the health of its students seriously.

Regardless of one’s stance on cigarettes, the matter of banning smoking is still justified through property rights. If the University does not own a piece of property, then it does not have the right to control tobacco use on that land. 

To appease both smokers and nonsmokers, the University could compromise with a ban that allows a few specific exceptions. For instance, it could designate smoking areas away from popular walking paths, such as alcoves outside the Cathedral of Learning by the Stephen Foster Memorial Theatre or the Litchfield Towers Patio behind Tower A. Those who wish to smoke could have a contained and confined area to do so, while those wishing to avoid the smoke could do so as well.

Finally, the University would have to consistently enforce the ban. If campus authorities caught someone smoking, he or she would need to receive a monetary fine set by Univeristy administration. The University could pump revenue generated from these fines into health-oriented programs.

Administration should set an exact date for the ban to go into effect. This way, individuals could prepare for the changes and understand the restriction. Aug. 31, 2015, the first day of the upcoming fall semester, would be an appropriate date to set. Upon this date, full enforcement should begin, without exception.

Student and faculty health must be protected, and banning smoking on campus is necessary to do so.