Over the past term, Student Senate has been trying to come up with a solution for second-hand smoke on campus. While Senate is in the process of drawing interpretations from collected data, members should keep in mind the different ways in which policies may impact the campus.
Student Senate is not trying to impose a hard ban on smoking on campus and we agree with this decision. Smokers should not have to go off-campus to engage in a legal activity the absence of which may very well have direct consequences on their mental health and stress levels.
The direction in which we are headed is the stricter enforcement of already-present federal, local and institutional policies. However, we feel as if the focus of possible outcomes has been non-smoking students, faculty and staff. The college should implement policies with the intention of benefiting as many students as possible. We think that simply being stricter about present regulations will also mainly benefit non-smoking students while almost completely ignoring the underlying reasons students may take up smoking or continue smoking. The student body at Knox is not homogeneous. Students comes from different backgrounds, cultures and personal experiences. This is not to overshadow the fact that smoking is harmful but to remind us all that everyone may face different obstacles when it comes to their habits of smoking; attitudes that will only be swept under the rug Ñ instead of being dealt with Ñ if we implement a one-sided policy.
We think that any new attitude towards smoking on campus should be one that encourages students to utilize resources if they wish to quit. In doing so, the policy will prioritize students’ health and avoid targeting certain groups disproportionately.
Smokers should be courteous and keep in mind the consequences of smoking on the health of both themselves and other students, as well as the environment. However, they must also know that this campus supports them and their autonomous decisions.
Instead of focusing on a singular policy to restrict smoking on campus, Senate should consider a two-step program that will firstly establish mutual respect between smokers and non-smokers and secondly encourage rehabilitation for students who wish to quit. In doing so, we will be able to work on the root of the problem instead of its superficial manifestations while straying away from toxic vilification of addicts in place of weaving the support net that will help break addiction.