Philosophy on the smoking policy

The new non-smoking policy is reasonable. Smoking harms smokers and non-smokers alike. Innocent bystanders who are exposed to secondhand smoke are at higher risk of cancer and other diseases. Oakland University has taken a strong step in favor of the health of the Oakland community by banning smoking throughout the campus.

This policy is not a radical change. Smoking is not permitted indoors at the university. This is a longstanding policy. Students and employees who agreed to attend or work at Oakland University have abided by this policy. Members of the Oakland community who have been protected from exposure to cancer-causing smoke indoors are now protected outdoors, as well.

There is very little difference between the smoking policy and other policies on campus. These policies serve to prevent people from harming others and from harming themselves. Consider the speed limits on campus. Speed limits serve two purposes: to protect drivers from each other and to protect drivers from themselves. Drivers who speed pose a danger to others. Secondhand smoke similarly poses a danger to others. Drivers who speed pose a danger to themselves. Smokers harm themselves by smoking. Just as Oakland prevents members of the community from harming themselves and others with cars, Oakland has every right to prevent people from harming themselves and others with cigarettes.

While this policy is reasonable, I am concerned about its enforcement. The OUPD enforces the speed limits on campus. Who is going to enforce the smoking policy? The non-smoking policy states: “Enforcement of this policy is the responsibility of all.” I am here at Oakland University to teach students and to do research. I am not a cop. Why is it my responsibility to enforce a non-smoking policy? My students are here to learn. How is the enforcement of a policy their responsibility? OU ought to use the OUPD to enforce this vital policy.

There is little clarity regarding what happens after a violation is reported. According to the policy, reports of students smoking on campus are supposed to be sent to the Dean of Students. Reports of employees in violation of the policy are supposed to be sent to their supervisors. What happens then? Are students going to be suspended? Are employees going to be fired? The punishments for violating this policy are far from clear.

Punishment should not be the only resource to help prevent smoking on campus. Nicotine is an addictive drug. Oakland should make every effort to help students and employees who want to quit smoking. The Graham Health Center offers group classes, coaching sessions and kits to help smokers end their habit. The university ought to make available nicotine patches and gum in the immediate future to help those currently addicted to tobacco.