The age of 18, when an American citizen becomes a legal adult, marks many rights of passage — the ability to vote, enlist in the army, get a tattoo or piercing and buy a pack of cigarettes. However, many college campuses are beginning to prohibit that last rite of passage.
As of this month, there are over 300 colleges that enforce “100 percent smoke-free campuses” according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, including University at Buffalo, the first SUNY school to enforce the ban. Buffalo established the UBreathe Free policy for the 2009-10 school year, prohibiting smoking anywhere except for designated parking lots 100 feet or more from campus, but hopes to become completely smoke free by August 2010.
According to a 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 31 percent of college students smoke, compared to 25 percent of the rest of the country.
Currently, on the Binghamton University campus, smoking is prohibited inside all buildings and other designated areas, but is allowed outdoors within 25 feet of building entries or windows.
Linda Spear, a distinguished professor of psychology at BU who specializes in addictions, thinks that while a campus-wide ban may be good in the distant future, it could initially have some negative side effects.
“Not allowing smoking on campus would help people quit smoking which is a good thing in the long run,” Spear said. “(But) if they can’t smoke on campus, they’ll start going through withdrawal and likely show withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability and lack of concentration.”
Steve Burns, a junior engineering major, has been smoking cigarettes for years and thinks that the University’s current stance is fair.
“If you stand far enough away from buildings and do what you’re supposed to do it should be fine,” Burns said. “As long as you’re not bothering anyone I don’t see what the problem is.”
Recently, the city of Ithaca is beginning to consider a ban on smoking in public areas due to the dangers of second-hand smoke. New York City implemented an indoor smoking ban in 2003.
In June of this year, President Obama signed an anti-smoking bill allowing the Food and Drug Association to reduce the amount of nicotine in tobacco products and ban flavored tobacco products.
While some students may object to the smoking ban as a violation of rights, the preventative health measures may outweigh their concerns.
Matthew Eng, a junior biology major and vice president for the Student Environmental Awareness Club on campus thinks that while smoking cigarettes does not strongly impact the environment, it will be good for students’ health.
“I think that people should be allowed to smoke, as long as they stay 20 feet away from a building,” Eng said. “But i think that a smoking ban would help improve the health of a lot of people on campus.”