Smoking ‘ban’ is too lenient




Oakland University should ban smoking throughout its entire campus.

Policy 475 bans smoking within 50 feet of university buildings. No one at OU seems to take this seriously.

I teach two courses in South Foundation Hall. Twice a day, I walk past a crowd of smokers directly in front of the building. Nobody stops them. I like to inform the students of the policy.

These fine young people like to yell things back at me that cannot be printed in a newspaper like the Oakland Post.

It is no surprise that smokers do not comply. The policy is silly. Why only ban smoking within 50 feet of buildings? Who came up with the magic number 50? Isn’t the area 50 feet from the buildings part of the campus? Don’t people work and study 50 feet away from the buildings?

If second-hand smoke is a problem in front of the building, isn’t it also a problem 50 feet away from the building?

Not only is Policy 475 poorly formulated, OU does not enforce the policy. A policy without enforcement is a fake policy.

I called the OUPD to report students smoking.

I was told that because Policy 475 is not a law, but only a policy, OUPD couldn’t enforce it. I emailed the Dean of Students, Glenn McIntosh, to inform him of the crowd of smokers.

I received no reply.

Policy 475 should be enforced with strict punishments, including expulsion of students and firing of staff, and it should be converted into a total ban. There are at least three good reasons to do so.

First, smokers not only harm themselves, they harm others. It is a well-established scientific fact that second-hand smoke causes or worsens serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease and asthma.

According to the American Cancer Society, it causes low birth weight in children whose mothers are exposed to smoke.

Imagine if a deranged student poisoned the water in the drinking fountains with a serum that caused everyone at OU to be at higher risk of cancer and heart disease. Imagine the serum also harmed unborn children carried by pregnant students.

Wouldn’t OU stop this deranged student? Wouldn’t the OUPD enforce a policy banning poisoned drinking water? How is second-hand smoke any different from poisoned drinking water?

Second-hand smoke poisons the environment on campus, putting the health of the OU community at risk.

The second good reason to ban smoking is to prevent smokers from harming themselves.

Such policies are often called “paternalistic.” The worry is that by preventing a person from harming his or herself, the policy acts too much like an overbearing parent.

This should not lead OU to refuse to pass such a sound policy.

After all, OU currently bans drinking, illegal drug use and speeding in cars on campus roads based on the endeavor of keeping students from harming themselves.

How would a total smoking ban be any different?

The third good reason to ban smoking is cost. Health care is a major cost for OU, Michigan and the United States. The increasing cost of faculty and staff health care is one of the major reasons OU has increased tuition in recent years.

Given that second-hand smoke harms the health of innocent bystanders and smokers, smoking makes the already high cost of health care even higher.

Banning smoking would help save everyone their hard-earned money that could otherwise be spent on tax and tuition dollars to ideally subsidize health costs for the diseases smokers inflict upon themselves and others.

OU needs to consider its image and brand. The opening of the new Medical School, the construction of the Human Health Building, and the continuing excellent biomedical research of OU faculty and students make clear that the aim of OU is to be a first-rate biomedical research university like the University of Michigan.

The University of Michigan recently banned smoking throughout its entire campus in Ann Arbor.

On the other hand, the only businesses in Michigan allowing people to smoke on site are Detroit casinos.

Why is OU imitating the Greektown Casino and Motor City Casino by allowing smoking on campus? Why not follow the University of Michigan instead and ban smoking entirely?

The noble aim of OU to be a first-rate biomedical university is not helped by OU adopting a third-rate Detroit-casino-style smoking policy.

Cancer is a serious matter that has affected many of our families and us. I lost my own father to cancer when I was 17 years old. I have also lost grandparents, aunts and uncles to cancer.

It is a horrible disease that leads too often to a prolonged and painful death, most often to people who did nothing personally to bring such an awful condition upon themselves.

I expect many of you have had similar losses due to cancer. Allowing the presence of second-hand smoke to cause cancer in innocent bystanders on campus is morally abhorrent.

OU should recognize the seriousness of cancer and the other diseases caused by smoking and ban smoking throughout the entire Oakland University campus, not just a distance away from buildings.