Staff Editorial: Extinguish the smoking ban

It is often hard to tell where our campus ends and the city begins.

And in March, the director of the Office of Sustainability admitted on NPR’s Kojo Nnamdi Show that it would be hard for GW to ban something so common – water bottles – for exactly that reason.

“Being an urban campus, it’s really integrated into the city, into Washington, D.C.” Meghan Chapple-Brown said. “It just wasn’t realistic. And we know people are coming and going off our campus all the time.”

The same is true of the smoking ban that GW plans to put into effect in September 2013, forbidding smoking within 25 feet of all University buildings and in common spaces like Kogan Plaza and University Yard.

It is unreasonable to expect the ban to be successful on a campus where many people unaffiliated with the University pass through on a daily basis.

Other colleges in the area, like Georgetown and the University of Maryland, have initiated similar bans. But these schools have clearly defined campus boundaries, making regulation far easier.

Although a Student Association referendum to create a smoke-free barrier around campus buildings was approved by a 66 percent vote in the spring, only 20 percent of students actually cast a ballot in the first place. That hardly serves as a mandate representative of the student body and should not be considered students’ call for a smoke-free campus.

After the ban is implemented, students who smoke on campus will be referred to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.

The ban will not only be difficult to police, but it will also be a chore for University Police officers to monitor. Their job is to ensure the safety of all students and faculty on campus – not to concern themselves with regulating students’ every move.

While the University has a vested interest in regulating what goes on inside University-owned buildings, it should not have control over whether or not students can smoke on campus. Students are adults and are well aware that it is harmful. They have the right to choose whether or not to smoke.

This seems more like a policy to appease non-smokers than it is to help those who are addicted to nicotine quit smoking. It does not solve the problem or get to the root of the issue.

In the end, a ban will do little to help curb students’ addictions to cigarettes, and they will likely look for ways to circumvent it. It doesn’t focus on the real issue, which should be to help students quit.

GW has demonstrated a commitment to student health and wellness in past years. They already offer a “Student Health Quit Smoking Program,” which helps students construct a timeline for quitting and offers group sessions for those committed to putting an end to their habit. Instead of instituting a cigarette ban to encourage students not to smoke on campus, the University should look for ways to enhance the cessation programs they already have in place.

As it is now, the policy merely forces them to leave campus.

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