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Editorial | Talk is cheap when it comes to Miami's no-smoking policy

By Editorial Board
On March 4, 2014

Generally, when rules and laws are put in place by parents, the government or even your professors, negative consequences may certainly follow if a rule is broken or a law is ignored.

For the administration, this may be true when it comes to outrageously expensive parking tickets, academic dishonesty and underage alcohol consumption, but when it comes to the issue of tobacco use on campus, the lines are blurred.

This January, the administration felt it needed to add to its 2008 no-smoking policy, which already prohibited smoking anywhere on campus, university-owned facilities or on any university property. It drew the boundaries quite clearly for where smokers could and could not be.

Even though students, visitors and faculty continued to light up while walking around campus with almost zero enforcement, Miami has now added additional rules to its already lack-luster policy. Chewing tobacco and the use of e-cigarettes are also prohibited on university property, as well as using any of the above tobacco methods in your car if it is parked on the property

According to Miami University Chief of Police John McCandless, no person will be arrested for smoking on campus. He said it's not "the intent of the university for MUPD to be taking levels of enforcement against those who are smoking." So, if the university isn't interested in enforcing the policy, and the only consequence someone can receive is a throwaway warning ticket, what is Miami's intended goal with this policy?

The Miami Student Editorial Board questions the motives behind this university policy and why it is a focus of their time at all if it continues to be an activity that truly can't be enforced. Some members of the editorial board felt that this isn't the university trying to keep students healthy and safe from the use of tobacco products, but it's more so of a perception issue and a reputation that Miami wants to uphold to future students, families and alumni.

Unfortunately for the university, if its aim is to showcase a campus that has mostly healthy students who look like they exercise and do not use, or rarely use, alcohol or tobacco products, their goal may be somewhat lofty. When it comes to tobacco, one in three college students currently use tobacco products, according to a 2013 study by researchers from Harvard School of Public Health.

The new additions to the policy also get strange when it comes to chewing tobacco: how would someone tell the difference between someone chewing gum, or having something else in their mouth unless they are "spitting" the chew in front of an officer? It would be a bit unnerving to have a police officer come up to someone suspected of chewing and ask them what is in their mouth. The board isn't even sure if MUPD officers would even do that, but the point is they probably wouldn't, so why add a questionable addition to an already questionable policy?

The board respects and honors the university's wishes to keep second-hand smoke reduced on campus and its efforts to keep students healthy, but these additions to a policy that isn't taken seriously by anyone on campus, including employees and faculty, isn't going to do any good without some serious backbone and enforcement.


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