Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tobacco ban unnecessary

By Jack Sorensen, Focus Editor

Congratulations to all first-years on your new adult lives. You’ve turned 18 and left for college, gaining new rights and responsibilities. Among these new rights is the right to purchase and smoke tobacco.

Welcome to Pacific Lutheran University, a liberal arts institution steeped in the traditions of Lutheran higher education. Here at PLU we like to treat you like perpetual children who need rules and regulations in order to know what a healthy lifestyle is.

On Nov. 4, every student received a campus-wide email informing them they would no longer be allowed to exercise their right to use tobacco at PLU. Much more disconcerting, however, is ASPLU’s utter failure in making educated decisions based in reason and accurate science.

Last spring, PLU nursing students approached ASPLU with a proposal to ban smoking on campus. ASPLU passed the resolution calling for a campus-wide ban on smoking.

However, it is necessary to draw a distinction between ASPLU resolutions and ASPLU bills. A bill is immediately enacted and has a direct effect on campus life. For issues ASPLU does not have jurisdiction over, senate passes resolutions. These resolutions are presented to the administration as universal student opinion, as represented by ASPLU. The recent ban on tobacco use was enacted by the administration, led by President Loren Anderson. But the issue only came to the university’s attention because of ASPLU’s actions.

As reported in The Mooring Mast Oct. 14, the nursing students asserted that many designated smoking areas were violating Washington state law, which dictates cigarette disposal areas must be located more than 25 feet from doors or open windows. ASPLU took this assertion as sacrosanct fact.

However, Mast reporters discovered evidence supporting the contrary. As The Mooring Mast published on Oct. 14, reporters “measured all of the cigarette disposal locations on the Pacific Lutheran University campus. All but one of the disposals were in line with or exceeding both PLU and Washington state regulations and law. The violating cigarette disposal is located outside the lower-level University Center entrance. It is only 17 feet 11 inches from the door.”

The resolution stated “secondhand smoke increases the chance of getting heart disease by 30 percent,” but it appears the number were slanted toward the high end. The CDC reports that nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke have increased risks of developing heart disease anywhere from 25 to 30 percent. Finally, the resolution states “cigarette smokers are four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease, 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer, two times more likely to have a stroke.” Again, the numbers were fudged: according to the CDC, smoking increases chances of developing coronary heart disease 2 to 4 times, stroke 2 to 4 times, lung cancer in men 23 times and lung cancer in women 13 times.

The Mooring Mast reporting demonstrated the nursing students’ consistent extrapolation and exaggeration of facts, including choosing the highest number in a given statistic, regardless of gender distinction. I would expect better from future healthcare professionals.

A simple Google search on behalf of ASPLU senators would have expanded their knowledge of the issue.

I absolutely agree that smokers often smoke in undesignated areas, violating the health rights of nonsmokers. I would have supported a resolution that imposed fines on smokers who smoke away from disposal areas. Here’s an idea, ASPLU: instead of passing a resolution proposing an all-out ban, you could have selected three to four isolated areas on campus and used red paint to designate them as smoking sites, fining anyone who lights up outside the red paint.

But instead, you as an organization forged ahead blindly, without reason or student opinion.

I encourage the student body to become more involved in ASPLU affairs—if they won’t seek you, seek them. First step? I know I will withhold my spring vote for any incumbents seeking reelection, instead opting for new candidates who have prescriptive means for garnering student feedback. I encourage you to join me—maybe then ASPLU will realize how important your voices are.