Need light touch on UI smoke ban

Need light touch on UI smoke ban

There's no doubt the University of Illinois is filled with smart people, but that's not always apparent.

People who have convinced themselves that they are on the side of the angels can, and will, do anything to vindicate their point of view.

Perhaps that's why University of Illinois officials are preparing a grand strategy to enforce their ill-advised impending campus ban on smoking.

Current policy bans smoking inside public buildings and within 25 feet of a building entrance. That ban soon will extend to the entire campus, and woe be to the poor soul who takes a puff one step inside the geographical boundary of the campus or smokes a cigarette while sitting inside a car parked on a campus lot or has the audacity to light up while drinking a beer (something that is also outside the rules) at a UI football tailgate.

So excuse us for not standing up and saluting these modern-day prigs who are busying themselves trying to stamp out other people's vices. This authoritarian-based nonsense is a waste of time and energy.

As for the claim that banning smoking on campus is aimed at reducing a public health threat, spare us the sanctimony. This is just more nanny-state extremism by those non-smokers who resent those who will not accept the zealots' guide for healthy living. Nanny staters hate it when they hear that description, and it's easy to understand why — the truth sometimes can be awfully hard to take.

No one disputes that smoking is a nasty habit. Few can quarrel with the idea of preventing smokers from imposing on others by engaging their filthy habit in close quarters. In that respect, the building bans are defensible.

But the idea that someone smoking a cigarette in the middle of the Quad imposes on others, let alone represents a health threat, is just plain silly. Anti-smoking advocates will deny it, but public health is just the window dressing that obscures what's really at play.

The zealots' stance on e-cigarettes unveils the real truth behind the campus ban.

Electronic cigarettes are nicotine-delivery devices that have the appearance of cigarettes. But they don't emit smoke, which is bothersome to many. They emit a vapor that automatically dissipates.

Like the smoking of real cigarettes, the smoking of e-cigarettes also is banned on campus. Since there is no smoke produced to cause a problem, it's reasonable to ask why.

Michele Guerra, director of the UI's Wellness Center and the chief apparatchik in charge of overseeing the ban, explains why: "We don't know enough about their risks."

Actually, we do. E-cigarettes don't produce smoke that, even theoretically, could be inhaled by anyone other than the smoker. But it's not the third parties people like Guerra are trying to reform, it's the e-cigarette smokers. Smokers — real ones or e-cigarette smokers — are engaging in behavior that the anti-smoking crowd does not approve, and the anti-smokers can't stand it.

We've seen this behavior before. Carrie Nation and her acolytes invaded taverns and smashed whiskey bottles and beer kegs. They helped spearhead the Prohibition movement, a disastrous effort to regulate people's private personal choices.

The anti-smoking crowd ought to focus on the bright side. There has been a revolution in public attitude about smoking cigarettes since the U.S. Surgeon General released a report linking smoking to lung cancer, in the mid-1960s. One of every two adults smoked cigarettes back then. Now that number has dropped to less than one in five.

What ought to be a cause for celebration among smoking foes has instead become a source of rage at those who choose, for whatever reason, to smoke. How dare those outliers not heed the warnings of their moral superiors.

It's astonishing to see UI officials organizing a cadre of anti-smoking scolds to ferret out campus smokers and politely tell them they are violating the rules. It's even more astonishing to see students assigned to count cigarette butts outside public buildings where smoking is permitted. (Is it any wonder they find some?) But it's mostly disheartening to see this zeal exercised in such a misguided fashion.

The best enforcement approach would be to post signs that announce the new rules and let people's consciences be their guide. Most people will, as a matter of personal behavior, follow the rules even if they don't like them. Those who may occasionally commit the cardinal sin of smoking within the borders of campus ought to be left alone.

Smoking is an ugly habit. Even more ugly is the idea of unleashing obnoxious anti-smoking enforcers on those who are harming no one but themselves and just want to be left alone to smoke in peace.

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Sid Saltfork wrote on December 17, 2013 at 11:12 am

Wait a minute....  the "modern day prigs" are the people who are educated in a narrow subject, and run the finances of the university.  They are the ones that defend the freedom of speech among their own.  They share governance on campus.  They should decide what people can, or cannot do on campus.  It is their realm.  As long as they rule on campus, and do not involve themselves with the unknowns of off-campus; they should tell other people what to do.  Academia was never meant to be a democracy.  When Hash Wednesday slipped away, the students gave parental responsibilities to their tutors.

serf wrote on December 17, 2013 at 9:12 pm

So which member(s) of the editorial board is a smoker?

Local Yocal wrote on December 18, 2013 at 10:12 am
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"Freedom, freedom, for me, me, me!" Oh,.....brown people and immigrants? We'll arrest them for those kinds of drugs.

Yearly number of deaths for tobacco in U.S.: 500,000

Yearly number of deaths from all illegal recreational drugs combined in U.S.: 17,000.

Sid Saltfork wrote on December 18, 2013 at 10:12 am

"immigrants"?  What problems do "brown people and legal immigrants" have with buying, and smoking tobacco as long as they do not smoke on campus?  The article is about restrictions on smoking on campus. 

Local Yocal wrote on December 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm
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Good question. It's a speculation as to why the nonsensical drug laws outlaw less dangerous substances than tobacco. History has shown that race or "undesirables" is exactly what the propogandists used to convince the politicians to illegalize the recreational drugs that are now illegal.

Sid Saltfork wrote on December 18, 2013 at 4:12 pm

You, and I differ on the race issue.  It is a class issue.  A poor white guy who cannot pay for justice gets the same as the poor non-white guy who cannot pay for justice.  The color of the accused makes no difference to a political, country club judge.  Look at the meth labs located in small towns, and the rural areas.  "Undesirables" maybe a term used for anyone not born to the manor class.  A person can be born into an "undesirable" family, and have no connection to criminal activity; but they are still an "undesirable" based on lineage.  The issue of race is an easy way to avoid social class issues.  All that it does is keep the poor white, and poor non-white divided, and distracted from the reality of contemporary America.

Local Yocal wrote on December 18, 2013 at 7:12 pm
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Good points all around, Sid. I was thinking of the history of illegalization as having roots in racial propoganda; also thinking of what a Jim Dey, Tom Kacich, or a John Foreman often imagine when they write these missives, and the remaining fact that the drug war has fallen hardest on racial minorities. You are right that it is beginning to simply be all about the money.

As for your example of meth labs, in the recent CU Access article that the IL State Police probably authored, published in this newspaper, the police officer refers to meth addicts as "skanky whites." Nonetheless, without a shred of evidence, the officer still brought race into it by speculating Mexican drug cartels will soon be taking over the meth business.

Sid Saltfork wrote on December 19, 2013 at 12:12 pm

American history is full of minorities who engaged in crime.  Irish, Italians, Jamaicans, Cubans, etc...  all had "skanky" individuals in their ethnicity, or race who engaged in crime.  As minorities, and immigrants; they felt discriminated against by the English, Germans, Irish, etc.. who came before them.  One thing that they all had in common was that they were poor.  Some stayed poor, and others prospered. It takes money to make money.  The poor of all groups have increased with the current times.  The working poor have been around throughout American history.  They are the ones who cannot pay for justice in the courts.  They get a public defender instead of a top attorney.  Race makes no difference to the system.  It is social class, and money that makes the difference.  If you have the money; you can buy moving up, and justice both.  The Race thing is a diversion appealing to the individuals in the different groups who fear change.  If the working poor ever got their priorities straight, and not let their differences divide them; they could affect social change, and justice rapidly.

thorx wrote on January 09, 2014 at 10:01 am

Actually if you check the facts, there are currently more than 1,100 college campuses that are now smoke-free.  So this is nothing new, UIUC has actually been behind the times in adopting the policy.

And I disagree with you that someone smoking on the quad isn't hurting anyone.  I feel non-smokers have more of a right to clean air than smokers have to pollute the air.

We can agree to disagree, but you are behind the times on this subject.  If you think you're upset now, I fully expect taxes on tobacco products to triple in the next decade, so save some of your anger for when that happens.