Columbia’s Odd New Smoking Policy

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Columbia University is considering a more stringent anti-smoking policy on campus. According to an article by Amber Tunnell in the Columbia Spectator, the campus newspaper:

A proposed resolution to ban smoking within 50 feet of all buildings on Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus has become a contentious issue in the University Senate.

The resolution, proposed by the Senate’s External Relations Committee, was based on a two-year evaluation process conducted by the Tobacco Work Group, a group of students and staff established in 2008 by Vice President for Campus Services Scott Wright. Since then, according to the resolution, the group has solicited opinions from students and faculty and studied local laws, policies at peer institutions, and current literature on tobacco and its long-term effects.

Immediately after the policy was proposed, Michael Adler, a professor at the Columbia Business School and a self-proclaimed smoker, spoke out against the proposal and offered an amendment: small huts around campus that would protect smokers from bad weather.

The smokers’ huts, which Adler suggested painting “Columbia blue and [making them] to look like umbrellas,” is obviously foolish. Such huts would be expensive, ugly, and sort of humiliating.

Columbia is by no means the first school to consider such a policy, nor is its proposed 50-foot limit even particularly harsh.
The University of Kentucky and Towson University now both ban smoking from campus altogether. A North Carolina community college even removed a picture of someone smoking from campus.

Still the proposed rule seems odd. There’s already a state law forbidding people from smoking within 20 feet of public buildings. This prevents people inside a building from inhaling secondhand smoke. Why would 50 feet make Columbia a better place? That wouldn’t make people more protected.

The proposed policy doesn’t seem to have anyone’s health in mind at all; it seems designed merely to make cigarette smoking more inconvenient. What, the fact that a pack of cigarettes costs like $12 in New York isn’t punishment enough? [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer