Lead Editorial: The Counterproductiveness of Smoke Free Campus Policies

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Beginning January 1 of this year, the Forest officially became a smoke-free campus. This policy was first announced last semester in an email to the student-body by Campus Life and Student Affairs. According to this email, the policy “prohibits smoking, use of any tobacco, and the use of any electronic delivery system (e.g., vaping)”. While this rule does not explicitly name other forms of non-nicotine smoking—most notably marijuana/THC —the administration clarified in a later email that “marijuana use, possession, distribution, sale, or manufacturing, including for medical purposes, are all still restricted behaviors [on campus]” despite New Jersey’s recent referendum and legalization. The administration cited their belief that this restrictive policy “furthers our commitment to the health and safety of students, employees, and guests” and that they concur with the Surgeon General’s findings that “tobacco use in any form, active and/or passive, is a significant health hazard.”

While there is no doubt that the administration has admirable intentions, their policy is counterproductive, contradictory and virtually unenforceable.

Drew’s stated goal is the health of its community, specifically campus’ air quality. This, in itself, is not objectionable; however, the downsides of the policy become quickly apparent when looking at its implementation. Concurrent with this policy’s implementation, Drew removed all of the green smoking bins/receptacles that had previously been strategically placed around campus. The removal of these bins has not deterred smokers on campus, who now just leave their cigarette butts on the ground instead. Residents of HERB Circle recently received an email reminding them of Drew’s status as a smoke-free campus, because—surprise—people have still reported finding discarded cigarettes and smelling smoke in the residence halls. 

Policy alone was obviously not enough to deter the portion of the student body who already smoke, even though they now have nowhere to dispose of their cigarettes. We simply made the tradeoff of increased litter for virtually no change in the overall level of campus smoking—at the very least, nowhere near a significant enough decrease to achieve an actual improvement in campus air quality.

This is not to say that smoking is good, healthy or anything of the sort. However, the policy itself is written to be “educational” rather than “punitive” according to the administration, and therefore enforcement will likely remain spotty at best. This gives us the worst of all worlds as smoke pollution—the stated problem—is not addressed, and the additional problem of increased litter is created.

While still possibly defensible as a policy designed to curb smoking (even ignoring the vastness of Drew’s campus and the ability of adults to make decisions regarding their own habits), the policy falls flat on its head when extended to all other forms of smoking. The administration’s extension of this policy to marijuana includes prohibiting the use of even medical marijuana. Unlike cigarettes, which have no clear health benefits and cause detrimental health conditions, marijuana and THC products have clear medical uses and neither negatively impact the health of its users nor others in the same way that nicotine products do. Despite marijuana smoke not being carcinogenic or harmful the way nicotine smoke is, and despite New Jersey’s legalization of cannabis products for medical—and recently, recreational—use, Drew’s policy explicitly and intentionally targets those on campus who may have medical needs that are best addressed through use of doctor-prescribed marijuana. 

It is clear that Drew’s policy of a smoke-free campus is inherently flawed and achieving a net-negative impact on the campus community. Its poor implementation has created increased littering with no observable impact on the air quality of campus, and it lazily groups nicotine smoke with much less harmful marijuana products, even explicitly prohibiting medical usage for those who may need it. The administration’s policy either needs revision or abolition.

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