Right to legal substance should take precedence

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The decision of the Board of Trustees to outlaw smoking on campus this past summer has gone under the radar for many students.
The policy restricts all burned tobacco and according to Valencia’s online statement, “any object or device intended to simulate such use,” which includes, oddly enough, electronic cigarettes. If quit-smoking aids are banned in such a contradictory fashion, are toy bubble-pipes outlawed too? We’ll find out on Jan. 1, 2012, when the policy will begin to be enforced.
When I first heard that Valencia was pursuing a smoking ban, I was reminded of the lessons from the Prohibition Era. After crime skyrocketed to record levels in the 1920s, the Eighteenth Amendment, which outlawed alcoholic beverages, was repealed by the Twenty-First Amendment. The adage was that it was unwise to try and regulate morality.
Valencia’s smoking ban is different than the Temperance movement’s crusade against alcoholism, but the lesson is similar. Banning legal substances – even in micro-instances like college – will never be fully complied with, and difficult to enforce.
“People are still going to find a way,” said Rami Alzeideh, 31. “They’re not going to be able to stop stuff like that.”
According to Valencia’s policy statement on the issue, the ban extends to all college owned property, including parking lots and the personal vehicles on them, and is applicable to alumni, faculty and visitors alike. Violators can receive a decidable punishment from the appropriate Dean or President of a campus, in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct or Human Resources Employee Handbook. Visitors, including contractors, can be exiled.
Professor of US Government, Bill Symolon, of Valencia’s Winter Park campus, said the smoking ban is completely unconstitutional. This brought the Fourteenth Amendment to mind, which says states may not “deny to any persons within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
“As long as it’s a legal substance and I can buy it legally, Valencia has no right to say I can’t smoke,” Symolon said. “They do have the right to control it – they can put smokers off in a specific area — but it shouldn’t be banned completely.”
Valencia isn’t a state legislature, but they are a public college, funded by the state. And while the health of faculty and alumni is an important issue, why does the college want to disgruntle a portion of the student body whose habit could easily be partitioned into designated areas?
Many students are surprised about the upcoming ban, and most bring up the same idea. Establishing “smoke pits” seems easier and cheaper, and doesn’t work on absolute terms that will burn a swath of the school’s population.
The idea of outlawing such a common freedom perturbs the minds of those who hold individual liberties highly. Some nonsmokers don’t feel adversely affected by second-hand smoke, and see the ban as excessive.
“As long as they’re not blowing smoke into the air conditioning vents outside, I don’t see the problem,” said one anonymous Valencia employee.
Many stressed-out students who take a full course-load, sleep around five hours a night and have full-time or part-time jobs smoke. That’s the nature of the beast at Valencia.
Some have only the precious and sacred moment between classes called the “smoke break” to calm their tensions amid tests, research papers and work schedules.
And if it’s the individual liberty of non-smokers to avoid second-hand smoke we’re talking about, then a compromise can easily be established by controlling where smoking is allowed within campus.
“This isn’t high school,” said music major Amador Salinas, 18, of the policy. He’d just suffered a shifty recital, and despite not being a regular smoker, took drags on a bench.
So when we look toward next year when campus-wide smoking bans become a reality, we should ask ourselves: Will it really provide an incentive to quit, or force the once-accepted tobacco, e-cigarette, and bubble-pipe smokers of our school into positions of secret deviance?