By Luke L. Heselden
As a graduate student at AU, I am concerned about the impact of pursuing a smoke- and tobacco- free policy on campus. There is a troubling trend in this country to demonize and otherwise discriminate against those individuals who smoke or use tobacco products.
Although not a smoker personally, as the child of a smoker I have witnessed first hand the bigotry that is so often aimed at smokers. Being a smoker seems to no longer be seen as a personal preference, but increasingly as a reflection of an individual’s level of education, social status or even character. I fear that implementation of this policy achieves little for the health of the campus community beyond the existing on-campus smoking policy and will only serve to further isolate members of our community who smoke.
The most worrying aspect of this new policy is the ban on smokeless tobacco. While the concern surrounding on-campus smoking is real and legitimate given the documented risks of secondhand smoke, there is no associated risk to individuals that are in the presence of smokeless tobacco users. If the campus community has decided to forbid the use of smokeless tobacco, it should also have the courage to remove all soda and junk food vending machines from campus, as well as eliminate menu items from on-campus dining establishments that are high in fat and calories and low in nutritional value, including, but not limited to, cheeseburgers, french fries and pizza. It is clear that the public health argument does not hold water when it comes to smokeless tobacco, and therefore, the motivation for banning this practice must lie elsewhere.
While I understand that this decision has been formalized, I wanted to take this opportunity to register my opposition to its implementation and disappointment that the input of the broader campus community was not sought by the administration. By carrying out such a draconian policy, we, as a campus community, are creating an unwelcoming environment for tobacco users. I would hope that a community that demonstrates such a commitment to the principles of diversity and inclusion of other groups would afford the same level of courtesy and respect to our staff, faculty and classmates that smoke.
Luke L. Heselden is an M.A. candidate in the School of International Service.