Carty ’15: Should the University ban smoking near buildings?

Opinions Columnist
Friday, October 26, 2012

Banning smoking near Brown campus buildings is ill-advised because such a ban does not advance public health or change personal incentives in any meaningful way.

Using current data on the issue, it is almost impossible to authoritatively prove that secondhand smoke in open, outdoor environments is seriously harmful. Studies on outdoor tobacco smoke have shown that particle exposure due to smoking is incredibly localized and can only match indoor smoking levels if an individual stands two feet away from a smoker. And once one moves more than two meters from a smoker, one experiences levels of particle exposure that are incredibly close to clean, normal air. Due to these figures, and the fact that most students will only ever pass by smokers near campus buildings for a few short seconds of their day anyway, I find it irrational to contend that a ban on smoking near public buildings would seriously advance Brown’s public health.

Furthermore, perhaps advocates of banning smoking near University buildings want to do so because they hope that tobacco users will be discouraged from continuing their unhealthy habit. That is, to a certain extent, a noble goal. But I seriously doubt that many smokers will be dissuaded from their ways by a policy that requires them to move just a few feet away. And these students, who would maintain their habit in the face of such a ban, will only go on to fill Brown’s greens, quads and courtyards after they are pushed from the steps of Faunce House, the porches of Wriston Quadrangle and the patio of the Sciences Library.

Lastly, I suspect that most Brown students would like tobacco use to be lower at Brown than it is today. Some of them probably wish so because of a well-founded concern for their friends and those around them. But some of them, I believe, oppose smoking for more self-centered reasons. To these students, smoking is distasteful and unpleasant to see or smell, and they advocate the above-mentioned ban because it would allow them to further divorce their lives from such a dirty habit. To these anti-smokers, I have this to say: Smelling something disagreeable for a few short seconds, or seeing something disagreeable a few times a day is not cause enough for a campus-wide policy that orders people to live their lives as you wish.

  • Anonymous

    Talk about banning this or permitting that….This community – I won’t stoop so low as to call it institution – is morally bankrupt. Say they ban it…They will not enforce the ban. They do not enforce anything. The place is run by a bunch of half-assed bureaucrats: a legacy from the Simmons years. Hey – it’s Paxson’s inauguration day. Welcome to Brown!

  • Michael J. McFadden

    If you actually apply the EPA Report results to the intensities and durations of exposures of students on a campus the results are educational. To achieve a single extra lung cancer from such exposure, it would take, on average, walking through TEN doorways full of smokers EVERY DAY for two hundred and fifty million student-years. Even if Brown has a lot of “perpetual grad students” I think any worries are a bit exaggerated, yes?

    I didn’t just make that number up btw… it’s actually how it works out if you do the figuring based on the EPA stats.

    Campus smoking bans are just a form of behavioral conditioning — the same as they do with rats and electric shocks. Make one choice unpleasant and eventually the rats learn to prefer the other choice. Students are not rats however, and they should NOT tolerate being “conditioned” like rats. There’s no sound health-based reason for campus bans, just as there’s no sound health-based reason for not allowing students/faculty a few decently exterior-ventilated rooms/lounges where smoking was allowed and smoking students and their friends could read, study, and relax together in an atmosphere where smoking was allowed. No one would be forced into such places, and no harm would be done. The ONLY reason for forbidding such an option is that it goes against behavioral conditioning and the effort at “Denormalization” and the ghettoization of smokers.

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

  • smokefree

    Kevin, hopefully in the remaining years you have at Brown you will realize that you have no idea what you are talking about regarding telling people how to run their lives. As a college student, you will find that these next few years will embrace you for life.

    In the words of Georgia’s Emory University Dean Stephen H. Bowen, “A tobacco-free environment is in keeping with our goal of creating a healthful academic community that is conducive to learning and supportive of the whole person. We believe this (becoming a 100% smokefree campus) is a positive step toward a healthier environment for all.”

    Brown University is surprisingly a number of steps behind the trend on colleges and universities in the country, where there are 825 smokefree institutions of higher learning with a 100% smokefree campus, of which 608 have decided on being tobacco free.

    Within 5 years of your graduation you will look back and wonder where was your mindset when you were struggling with the thought of moving smoking back from campus buildings. They won’t be smoking anywhere on campus.