I’m writing to voice my concern over Whittier’s “smoke free” campus policy, written about in the recent article: “Smoking on Whittier College’s campus snuffed out.” I hope, at the very least, this letter is able to spark some sort of dialogue over the creation of this policy, considering how the article itself mentions few people have spoke out against this or advocated otherwise.
I’d first like to point out that the research used by the task force for this policy is somewhat flawed. While not all, many of the sources cited on the College’s website are outdated, up to 19 years old. This isn’t exactly ideal evidence, and more recent studies have contradicted the risk of inhaling second-hand smoke (SHS), such as follow-ups in the later 2000s to an earlier case from Helena, MT in 2003 (correlating significant decreases in heart attacks with large smoking bans) that couldn’t prove it was caused by the bans and found it much less significant, and a 2013 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute which found no clear link between SHS and disease like lung cancer.
Research aside, I’d also like to defend the student smokers of Whittier. This policy blatantly violates their privacy. Before this, there was already a compromise in place made to protect the rights of smokers and the health of non-smokers: designated smoking areas. If the main concern was that SHS was still a health hazard to non-smokers, they could have simply made the already existing smoking areas more restrictive and worked around that. Instead, the school banned smoking completely, even in student-owned cars while on campus, infringing on the rights of students to choose what they do to their body, and implying that they care less about the well-being and freedom of all students and more about unnecessarily policing those that smoke. In this age, virtually everyone is aware of the health risks of smoking, and some educated adults still make the choice to smoke anyway. And, that’s okay. As long as they aren’t forcing their choices and the consequences that come with them upon others (which is the whole point of designated smoking areas), they have every right to do what they want.
It just seems like this policy was made in an antagonistic way toward student smokers. Instead of having an open conversation about fair compromises between smokers and the rest of the student body, they have been alienated, forced to leave campus in order to exercise their rights; in a way, exiling them from the campus and its community. I ask that the College as a whole rethink their approach to policy regarding smoking, and work toward compromise rather than demonizing one group.
Emu Devine, Class of 2022