Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tobacco policy may infringe on civil liberties

By Courtney Donlin, News Editor

The policy change regarding tobacco use on Pacific Lutheran’s campus presented commotion. Around 20 students, staff, faculty and community members attending the second smoking forum Monday. Some participants said civil liberties were at stake for smokers.

Through spring semester 2011 and summer 2011, work surrounding the ban received little to no reaction, Provost Steve Starkovich said.

“Many [faculty members] said they were too busy, some said they were too busy and they don’t support the policy,” Starkovich said at the forum. “The lack of reaction, for me, was an indication that this was not a controversial topic.”

Starkovich said Monday’s forum was meant to “back up” from the notion that the policy is “a done deal” and open up a discussion about what the policy will mean. At its current stage, nothing has been officially decided.

Professor of English Jim Albrecht, who does not smoke, said at the forum he was against the policy change and called it an issue of civil liberties. Smokers, Albrecht said, will continue to smoke regardless of location. If they aren’t smoking on PLU property, then they are smoking on someone else’s property, he said.

Junior Julie Dupuis and her boyfriend Paul Hanson echoed Albrecht’s concern, describing the tobacco ban as a way to exclude students who smoke. Dupuis, who transferred to PLU from Bellevue Community College, said she felt as though she is welcome on campus as a student but not as a smoker.

Dupuis also said that smokers, in general, don’t intend to cause health risks for community members.

“We are very understanding that other people don’t want to inhale our smoke,” Dupuis said.

Although not a PLU student, Hanson agreed with Dupuis and emphasized the significance of making an adult decision when it comes to smoking.

“It comes down to having enough respect for your fellow human being to make that choice,” Hanson said.

Nursing student senior Marlee Call said in an email, “It has been stated that the tobacco ban infringes on students rights. The reality is, smoking is not a right. Smoking is a choice.”

Task Force member senior Jordan Tremper was part of the original group of nursing students who put forth the potential tobacco-free policy in spring 2011. The policy began as a student project that gave a list of recommendations for implementation, Tremper said.

“We still want this campus to be very inclusive,” Tremper said. “It’s not that we don’t want you, we don’t want this behavior.”

A possible solution proposed by Dupruis was the implementation of “smoke huts,” small covered areas where smokers can congregate without interfering with the nonsmoking community.

According to the Tobacco-Free page on PLU’s website, “Becoming a tobacco-free campus is in keeping with PLU’s commitment to promote and support a healthy and safe campus environment for all - it is a core value and a central part of our mission.” The Tobacco-Free FAQ section says PLU will not provide smoking stations.