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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Smoking ban infringes on personal freedoms

Around the nation universities are taking antismoking policies to the next level by banning smoking everywhere on campus. While no Wisconsin schools have extended smoking bans beyond 25 feet from public buildings, yet UW- Plattville has begun talks to institute a schoolwide smoking ban. With its traditionally harsh stance on smoking it seems inevitable that Madison will follow suit. For students and residents, now is the time to take a stance against these bans. If we wait to voice our support for freedom of choice, our school will soon be faced with the same initiatives currently being considered at Purdue University and being enacted in 2011 at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

A cornerstone of the Michigan plan is that students will not be ticketed for smoking on campus, but rather will have to attend meetings designed to convince them to quit smoking. That's right, Michigan thinks it can convince people to stop smoking. Anyone who has tried to convince a family member or friend to quit smoking knows that this type of plan will never work. Unless they were born in a carton, smokers already know their habit is an unhealthy waste of money. Forcing intelligent college students to attend antismoking meetings is nothing more than a patronizing attempt to humiliate a group of people who should have the freedom to make their own decisions, healthy or not.

Officials at universities where bans are being proposed claim they want to encourage students to be healthy. Posting fliers talking about the dangers of smoking would count as encouragement for a healthy community. But banning smoking and creating penalties for having a cigarette is not encouragement, it is a decree. Students who quit smoking or never start as a result of a university smoking ban aren't choosing a healthy lifestyle—they are being forced into someone else's definition of what health should be.

If campus officials at schools like Purdue think they can force their own version of health onto their students, why should they stop with smoking? Being overweight, eating unhealthy foods, not wearing a helmet and even tanning are all examples of activities that can be considered unhealthy. What is there to stop schools that ban smoking in the interest of health from combating any of these other risky behaviors that students engage in on a daily basis? For those who don't smoke, the idea that someone else should force you to live their own version of a healthy lifestyle only becomes threatening when we realize many of our own habits and activities fall into the same category as smoking.

For students who do live an exceptionally healthy lifestyle and always wear their helmets, it may make sense to force others to make the same healthy decisions. But this viewpoint showcases a very narrow vision of what health is. Relaxation, having fun, looking good and living exciting lives are all reasons why people choose to make decisions that are detrimental to their physical health. Smokers know they are hurting their lungs when they reach for a lighter, but they don't care because they value other aspects of their lives more. The beauty of our country and free- thinking campuses comes from each individual's ability to choose which aspects of their life are important and then to act out those choices. When a university makes those value judgments for it's students they take away the best part of life.

This doesn't mean that smokers should be let off the hook. In order to maintain the freedom to smoke they must make sure their decision doesn't impact others who may have different values. Luckily Madison's smoking community knows this and does a good job of keeping their smoke to themselves. It makes sense to ban smoking in our public buildings, but as long as smokers maintain their freedom responsibly, the ban must stop there. We must not let the assault on freedom taking place at other Midwest universities come to our school. Stand up for freedom of choice even if you are not a smoker, because your freedom will be next.

Andrew Carpenter is a senior majoring in communication arts and psychology. Please send responses to

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