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Opinion

Tobacco-free campus threatens student rights

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September 19, 2013

On July 1, UW-River Falls (UWRF) was declared a tobacco-free campus.

Currently, all forms of tobacco, including e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and hookah/shisha are banned. Similar to most regulatory actions, our campus’s fight against tobacco is rooted in both progression and constitutional rights.

Not only does smoking affect the participant, but also nearby non-smokers. Continuously, researchers discover more about the harmful effects second- and third-hand smoke (according to the New York Times “A new cigarette hazard: ‘third-hand smoke,” third-hand smoke occurs when toxic Chemicals – hydrogen cyanide, butane, toluene, arsenic, lead, carbon monoxide and more – from smoke cling to hair, clothing, and furniture.) In order to combat the dangers of smoke as well as take progressive action towards a healthier breathing environment, numerous organizations, including UWRF and many other campuses, are enacting stricter policies regarding tobacco.

The strongest counter-argument to permitting tobacco is the fact that second-hand smoke has adverse health-effects, which therefore threaten a non-smoker’s lifespan.

The US Constitution clearly advocates the right to life. The World Health Organization states, “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being.” According to both, non-smokers deserve to have a smoke-free environment.

However, the strict regulations threaten smokers’ rights as well. UWRF does not simply ban cigarettes, but all forms of tobacco. Some types of smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes do not produce second-hand smoke and are not a hazard to a non-smoker. Smokeless tobacco may be harmful to the user’s health, yet there are several other legal adverse health habits, such as overeating or not exercising.

If students on campus have the right to put their health in danger by eating excessively or avoiding exercise, why are smokers banned from tobacco that is harmless to others?

Additionally, smoking is an addiction. Students who regularly smoke tobacco are not necessarily going to quit just because of the campus regulation. Many will resort to smoking off-campus. Although toxic smoke may be removed from campus, it will most likely relocate to other areas of River Falls.

There are other means of keeping non-smokers safe at UWRF that do not entirely eliminate tobacco. Perhaps permitting smokeless forms of tobacco or creating designated smoking areas would be beneficial to the population of students who do smoke. Although UWRF is taking a significant leap toward positive health choices, the campus needs to take a few steps back to re-evaluate which forms of tobacco use are actually problematic.

Hannah Timm is a sophomore majoring in professional writing and minoring in creative writing. When she graduates from UWRF, she intends to work as an editor.