Smoking Ban at Evergreen?
The Evergreen administration has signaled that a ban on smoking may be coming to the Evergreen campus. Smoking is currently only allowed in designated smoking areas, and plans are underway to reduce the number of smoking areas and relocate them all to the outskirts of campus. Discussions are now happening about eliminating smoking altogether. Earlier this year, the college’s Health and Safety Committee (HSC) completed a two-year study on the feasibility of becoming a nonsmoking campus. Over 1,100 college campuses in the U.S. are smoke-free, including every University of California campus. According to the HSC, the college is concerned with the public health, social justice, and environmental issues around smoking. Opponents have questioned the feasibility of preventing smoking on campus, and have criticized the college for lack of transparency in its process so far. Here’s what two of our writers have to say.
Discussion of Smoking Ban Presents Larger Ethical Issues
By Pheobe Celeste Thomas
Thinking about smoking conjures up images of iconic movie characters, rock stars, and intellectuals. These images are of people who represent ideas of freedom and individuality. Behind the actual production of this consumer product, though, is a hefty degree of advertising, and also—lesser known but more important—widespread child labor and environmental destruction.
There are currently discussions happening on campus about whether we should ban smoking on campus, and whether smoking areas should be relegated to the outer limits of campus. Before you advocate in favor of your own self interest in wanting to continue your habits under the guise of promoting freedom, you may want to make an informed decision.
I myself used to be a smoker, and it wasn’t until recently that I learned about the social justice and environmental issues surrounding tobacco. These issues go beyond the health of smokers and secondhand smoke.
If you consider yourself to be a morally righteous citizen of planet earth because you boycott Wal-Mart and you recycle, you might find it alarming to consider that child labor is used to grow tobacco domestically and abroad and that tons of deforestation occurs every year and tobacco farming totally wrecks soil.
By purchasing and consuming tobacco, you are supporting cultural appropriation, child labor, and other labor injustices, deforestation, and a heavy pesticide usage.
This year, the college has completed a study on the potential impact of a smoking ban which they began in 2012. They researched the social justice impacts of tobacco and precedents for nonsmoking college campuses and investigated into students’ opinions on the matter through town hall meetings. In their research on the societal impact of tobacco, they state that “Most tobacco is grown in low to middle income countries, contributing to undernourishment since arable land is used to produce a non-food item.” This highlights the outrageous environmental impact of tobacco on farmland that would otherwise be useable to grow food. Additionally, tobacco is harmful to the people who grow it, who, in some of the countries that now produce most of our tobacco, are children. Al Jazeera reports that “According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and non-governmental organizations such as SOS Children, Plan International and others, when the children cut and bundle the tobacco leaves they are put at risk of absorbing toxic quantities of nicotine through their skin.” These are just some of the alarming facts about tobacco that aren’t necessarily known by the general public. Not everyone is aware of how bad smoking and nicotine is for them, or exactly how much the litter of cigarette butts amounts to, or how bad secondhand smoke truly is for people either.
It’s easy to be allured by the abundance of imagery of smoking and the mythology surrounding it (that it helps with anxiety and weight loss, etc), as well as smoking’s creation of an opportunity for some people to have social interactions. Hence, it’s easy to see why some people would argue for the protection of their current individual freedom to smoke. However, it’s up to people who are well informed about issues of social injustice, environmental destruction, and public health issues and have the freedom to change society in order to promote a more sustainable and healthy growing population of humankind to do what they find to be morally correct for the greater good. They don’t do this out of individual interest or as a way to target anyone specifically just to make their life more inconvenient. Rather, they are trying to create a community that protects public health and actively promotes social justice and protection of the environment.
By continuing to provide a profound number of smoking pits on campus with seating, rain coverage, and close proximity to classrooms, dorms, and everything on campus, the school is encouraging smoking. Evergreen has a high number of smokers in comparison to most other colleges. The current situation and appeal of the smokers’ pits on campus allow these numbers to remain at these high levels and even encourage people to smoke more often by providing freshmen and other students the opportunity to practice smoking as a way to socialize, in a forum that is quite unlike any other on campus. As easy as it is to enjoy smoking by feeding into the sheer amount of imagery and mythology surrounding smoking, and as easy as it is to use it as an activity and a way to socialize on a regular basis, it would be the morally conscious step in terms of acting for the greater good of humanity, as well as for the health of smokers and nonsmokers in the community breathing in the air that smoking pollutes to make the smokers pits fewer and farther between so that smoking is not such an immediately visible, convenient, and supported activity. By relegating the smokers pits to the liminal areas of our fairly small campus rather than dispersing them ubiquitously throughout in plain sight and within the air that smokers and nonsmokers alike breathe with appealing seating and in such a social setting, we will simply be acting as one of the more radical, progressive schools in the country should be: promoting social issues and active change rather than protecting Americans’ right to remain stagnant, ignorant, hypocritical, and politically inactive.
College Must Involve Students in Policy Decisions
By Garrett Bekemeyer
Some of you may have heard word out there of a surprising change coming to Evergreen’s campus. No, it’s not the fabled skywalk to be erected over the 1000 Acre Wood’s canopy. It is the abolishment of all but a select few smoking pits among the school’s grounds. A couple will still exist on the very outskirts of campus.
For students, this will have come as a shock, the sudden refurbishing of Evergreen into a smoke-free campus. The information is hard to come by, but policy makers here at the school have been looking into this process for a couple years now. Up until very recently there has been no outreach to understand student opinion on the topic. The details are still a bit fuzzy, but this is the year that the project will apparently see fruition. Most people are aware of just how bad smoking is; I am not here to enlighten anyone on that. I am here to expand on the audacity of this change to come to our campus without initial opinion of the student body and also what exactly it will mean for the future of our dearly beloved progressive campus.
Whether or not you advocate smoking, if the college is truly allowed to go through something of this magnitude without the initial approval of the student body, why on Earth do we pay so much for this? We pay to go to, college where we have no true control over what happens on campus. If they can switch it up for one policy they can do it to another, we can’t always know where our money goes. If you just brush it aside as “yeah smoking is bad, and good riddance,” you are being ignorant to the fact that you could and should play a role in decision making, but you aren’t. If you want to consider the health concerns of anyone willingly or unwillingly inhaling tobacco smoke, then you must also consider how here on our campus, the student body affixed to on-campus living in the dorms (or those with a meal plan) are literally force fed the digestive tract-wrecking food from Aramark, the dining service giant holding a vice grip on what you can eat on campus. This nearly monopolizing entity keeps most students in processed food hell; certainly this situation should be at least near the same level of alarm as how you regard smoking here on campus, if you claim to truly be for the smoking ban.
So why is smoking going to be banned here on campus? We all know lawmakers are fighting hard to keep smoking out of any sort of establishment other than casinos despite the number of smokers in the world increasing with population growth according to studies done recently by the University of Washington, coupled with the across the board facts on what the effects of secondhand smoke truly are.
As of October this year, there are 1477 campuses in our country that claim to be smoke-free. We are to believe that all 1477 of these institutions littered with “SMOKE-FREE CAMPUS” signs now will never ever anywhere have an incident of smoke reaching into their prideful air. Bullshit. I do not need to say a word on how most college aged students regard rules. That is not something you can back up with facts. You back that up with experience. How can a college truly say they are smoke-free? It’s a fashion band-aid. It’s a tool used to show a symbol of prestige over campuses that still allow smoking. Sure, guidelines and regulations can still exist on a “smoke-free” campus to insure chaos doesn’t ensue, but we all know anything can happen.
Did you know there used to be kitchens in the dorms? You used to be able to cook in the dorms. And the kitchens were taken away. Why? A combination of they couldn’t be trusted in the hands of nubile young students and of course the cost to maintain. Also, initially the contract the school had with Aramark made it so they could be the only primary source of food on campus. I think it sucks when an institution realizes it is too costly to trust its students. It also sucks when how students feel about something is thrown under the bus. But now we have the symbolic gesture of a single kitchen for use by all the dorm residents. Maybe a sign of trust? Can we trust then students to adhere to smoking rules here? We know all manner of rules they disregard concerning all sorts of substances behind their closed doors, I do not need to get into that.
A key note to be aware of is the only smoking area to remain in the residential area is the one among the apartment-styled housing. The “freshman pit” will be no more. As far as I see it that is for the best, it has now become a hive of scum and villainy from off-campus drug dealers preying on the young minds here. But that’s not going to go away. That will find its way to the remaining pit, that which will only increase in traffic, and from there into the woods. And to infinity and beyond. These things will always find a way.
I’m not saying we should fight to keep the smoking pits on campus. I’m saying we should always be questioning how policy changes are handled here, how to be mindful of what we can do to influence them, and to always be aware of the repercussions. Because remaining ambivalent destroys these poor kids coming to Evergreen hearing all about its rich history of breaking the status quo. What they get is another soul-sucking university where it quickly seems their day to day life is no longer in their control. We don’t have to let this things happen. We have a voice. All we have to do is use it.