Is MNSU serious about its smoking ban?

Bill Hamm
Staff Writer

Is there a smoking ban at Minnesota State University, Mankato, or is it just bull squat?

While alcohol and tobacco each kill approximately 150,000 Americans every year, we have only taken one seriously here at MNSU. We have trained students to watch for, and act to prevent, our share of the 7,000-plus alcohol overdoses by college students that happen every year. Tobacco on the other hand, despite a campus-wide ban, is still being used at many sites on campus regularly and without any fear of consequences.

These smokers can be seen by all, any time of the day, brazenly and openly without any concern for consequences. As a proxy Senator, I recently listened to a proposal by Senator Michael DuFresne suggesting that the campus should cave in even further on this issue by putting out fancy ashtrays for them. His presentation only pointed out two of the sites around campus that smokers congregate at. DeFresne also talked about the nasty cigarette-butt crisis we have going on.

However, instead of suggesting that some sort of enforcement mechanism be used, DeFresne suggests that we put butt containers out in these places so smokers have someplace to put their butts instead of throwing them on the ground, as if they will. This kind of thinking undermines the whole principle of the “Smoke Free Campus” and any efforts we have to encourage smokers to quit.

This, coming from the same student senate that spent the last year supporting an ordinance to raise the tobacco purchase age to 21, an effort that passed in North Mankato but not in Mankato and is now before the state legislature. Why would any reasonable student organization allow itself to be sucked into any scheme that would further undermine the campus ban? The answer is simple, some of our Senators smoke and want to undermine the ban any way they can. This effort must be stopped dead in its tracks. We can do it by promoting a ban with teeth and real consequences.

We live in an age when every student has a camera and can be easily encouraged to use them for any number of reasons. It’s time our smoke free campus is one of them. We need to encourage and allow students to photograph offenders. We need a site where these photos can be collected and someone who is designated to identify these violators. We also need a nominal fine, say $25, that can be assessed to the violators student account. We have a law enforcement program that could easily be incorporated into this effort; we only need the commitment to put together the logistics. The money raised by these fines could easily cover cost of this effort with any additional monies devoted to the smoking cessation program.

We need a pro-active smoking ban on the MNSU campus, not the gutless sellout ban now being examined by our student senate. We need to strengthen our resolve to end this scourge upon our society, not weakness creating excuses that allow it to continue. Smokers already have alternative options, starting with walking off campus and accompanied by nicotine gum or patches to get them by.

As an ex-smoker myself, I have no pity for these addicts. I am my brethren’s keeper. Getting them to quit this nasty habit is far more important to me than doing anything that supports tobacco company’s efforts to keep them addicted.

Where do you stand? Let your senators know.

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