In light of other colleges adopting smoking bans on their campuses, members of Student Senate have begun to discuss potentially making changes to the smoking policy at Knox.
The changes could range from better enforcing of policies already in place that make smokers stand 15 feet away from buildings to prohibiting smoking on specific parts of campus to a complete ban of smoking at the college.
On July 1, 2015, the Illinois General Assembly will begin enforcing the Smoke-Free Campus Act, an act that prohibits the smoking of tobacco on every state-funded college campus in Illinois. While this act will not apply to Knox, there are a number of colleges in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) including Coe College, Cornell College and Grinnell College that have already prohibited smoking on all parts of their respective campuses.
This discussion at Knox has only just begun and therefore if any changes are made to the current smoking policy, they will not be implemented for some time.
Campus Life Chair and sophomore Tevin Liao explained that, “President Amott wants the campus to be smoke free, but we as students know that this cannot be accomplished right away. The campus isn’t ready for it, so while the President might want it, that doesn’t mean the students want it.”
Liao also described the difficulties of making sure the student body is accurately represented in this matter. Senate is currently considering sending out a school-wide survey asking a few questions about how students feel about smoking at Knox. Liao maintains that this entire process has barely started, so smokers and nonsmokers alike will have plenty of time to voice their opinions.
“It depends on the results of the survey,” Liao said. “From there we will make an official proposal.”
When asked about how the school would enforce the prohibition of smoking Liao said, “Ideally we would have a culture here in which students will hold each other accountable for smoking in the wrong places.”
Whether you are a smoker or a nonsmoker there are pros and cons to both sides of this debate. On the one hand, diversity as well as freedom to be yourself are core aspects of Knox culture, and enforcing a tobacco prohibition would be a move against those values if you are a smoker.
On the other hand, studies conducted over the last few years have provided conclusive evidence about the negative effects of secondhand smoke. The Illinois General Assembly reports that it is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States, so the potential health benefits of a smoke free campus should be taken into account as this debate continues.
“I understand that it can encroach on people’s air when you smoke around campus, but I also think that I have a right to smoke,” junior Enkhjin Tumenjargal said, “Knox also has a lot of international students and many foreign countries don’t see smoking to be as much of a social taboo.”
One aspect of this decision that makes it more difficult is that taking away the right to smoke tobacco might be seen as a move against smokers’ freedom, yet the nature of smoking cigarettes subjects nonsmokers to secondhand smoke and unavoidably restricts their freedom to breathe clean air.
“Sometimes you might want to go outside just to get some fresh air and cigarette smoke definitely gets in the way of that,” senior Dan Bloethe said, “I think designated smoking areas are a good idea but it would be hard to implement a change like that.”