The Daily Gamecock

Tobacco ban unnecessary, paternalistic

Since becoming an exchange student at the University of South Carolina, I’ve noticed profound differences between student life in England compared to the states. There’s been talk of a tobacco ban on campus, but no one has really been sure whether it’s already implemented or if it’s a definite proposal for the near future. Then on Tuesday, students and staff received an email from President Harris Pastides that confirmed our suspicions and brought the ban to fruition.

As a non-smoker, I believe that the ban is a violation of rights and a worrying example of how paternalism will continue to encroach upon the experience of students at USC.

I agree that USC has made positive changes to life on campus. I take advantage of the fantastic salad bar in Russell House and love working out at the Strom Thurmond Fitness and Wellness Center. I’ve been to the farmers market a couple of times and made some healthy home-cooked meals from the variety of food that it offers. But these changes are giving students the choice to opt in to living a healthy lifestyle, where imposing a ban is taking away their choice altogether. I don’t see how a tobacco ban is “the next step.” Rather, I see it as a step backwards from the positive measures USC has already made to encourage healthy living.

I’m interested to see how USC is planning on implementing such an extensive policy. If it’s anything like drinking laws in the states, those who smoke already won’t stop smoking; they’ll just become more careful of getting caught.

As a British exchange student, I’m even more shocked by the ban, because it is so alien compared to everything I’m used to at home. If the University of Leeds tried to implement a tobacco ban there would be outcry from the student body, flyers plastered all over campus, protests outside the Parkinson Building’s steps and online petitions flying into inboxes everywhere. Going to university in the U.K. is about student-based decisions and student rights. The right to make choices defines our entire university experience, because it allows us to be accountable for our choices and learn about the consequences ourselves. Imposing a tobacco ban is taking away the right to choice, something I believe is a crucial aspect — if not the crucial aspect — of going to university in the first place.

The ban seems even more nonsensical in light of South Carolina state laws. It will expect students to stop smoking on campus when they can legally light up a cigarette almost anywhere else in South Carolina. Banning the use of tobacco on campus is segregating the university from other aspects of adult life in the state and is making the university experience in Columbia even more of a bubble compared to the rest of the city. Going to university is meant to be the linchpin of transition to the real world, not a continuation of hierarchical, paternalistic protection from it.

The expectation that students at USC are to stop smoking on campus is a violation of choice in the one place where independent choices are supposed to be nourished. If USC is going to respect their students as legal adults, this must include the right to smoke, regardless of its effects.

— Evelyn Robinson, second-year international English and history student