Enforcement an Issue for Smoking Policy
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 00:11
My sister has severe asthma; I’ve had to take care of her during several of her attacks. And I have bad allergies in the spring, so I know how awful breathing problems can be. That being said, I have no real problem with people smoking. My policy towards it mirrors my feelings towards others’ religion: I’m probably going to feel its second-hand effects no matter what, but as long as you don’t blow it in my face, I say live and let live.
Next semester, a change that has been a long time coming will finally sweep Kenyon’s campus: smoking will be banned, save a few to-be-designated zones and residential areas. In other words, most academic areas on campus will be off limits. Following the uproar that an attempted smoke-free campus by 2016 policy wrought, this new policy is a compromise.
To be honest, I wouldn’t be totally against a smoke-free campus, even if I wouldn’t necessarily be an outspoken proponent of it. Even most smokers acknowledge that it isn’t healthy, and at least the school would be sticking to its guns. This ban, however, seems ineffectual. Honestly, it seems almost retaliatory.
It’s hard to imagine second-hand smoke really affecting bystanders if a handful of people are smoking in the middle of a lawn. The problem, then, is that people smoke too close to the buildings, forcing others to walk through their smoke clouds and leaving a lingering smell around the buildings.
Because of my sister, I know how hard it is to try to passthrough one of those areas when you have a breathing problem. I’m all for the set-distance policy, but I nevertheless see the ban as a blanket punishment. The general feeling seems to be that this ban is aimed at preventing constant enforcement of the distance policy. Instead of telling someone to move away for smoking too close, the student just gets punished for smoking at all. It’s a simplifier.
That’s my problem with this new ban. Blanket punishments work in Army boot camp and nowhere else. Blanket punishments are effective because the people being punished either change their ways out of guilt or get beaten down until they change. This only works, though, if all of the blame is put on those breaking the rules. No one is going to rise up against the military in retaliation.
We, however, are an often self-entitled and self-righteous liberal arts college. From everything I’ve seen, blanket blame is not going to fly. It never worked in elementary school playgrounds, or middle school classrooms, or high school campuses; why would college, where we’re encouraged to think for ourselves, be different?
I’ve talked to a few people about this, and many of their sentiments align with those of first-year non-smoker David Belsky. He sympathizes with smokers’ problems, but he can see why the ban is appealing. Regardless of right or wrong, however, Belsky’s primary concern is implementation: “It’s hard to regulate [the current ban], and I’m not going to be the one to say, ‘Hey, put out your cigarette.’” The enforcement problem is a legitimate one, especially because this is a fairly lax campus. But let’s be realistic for a minute. Kenyon students aren’t belligerent. Half of my smoker friends are also huge proponents of Bowtie Fridays. These are, for the most part, not kids who are going to retaliate to a calm, “Please move away from the building.” While this ban is rooted in good intentions, it’s probably not going to work. People will just be sneakier. They’ll put out cigarettes when Safety walks by. They’ll find a way.
Or, as Belsky said, “It’s a noble effort that’s not really going to go anywhere.”
Derek Dashiell ’16 is a prospective English major. He has lived with an ex-smoker father and an asthmatic sister. His email is email@example.com.