Arizona State University will become a tobacco-free campus beginning next summer, but in protest and to raise awareness of the ban, a student-led group passed out cigarettes to students on the Tempe campus Wednesday.
“Their message isn’t that they want to protect other students; it’s to protect others from themselves,” said Carlos Alfaro, a senior majoring in economics and American history who is a part of Students for Liberty. “They’re trying to save society with what they think is correct. It’s the same thing with the war on drugs and same-sex marriage.”
Outside of the Memorial Union, the student union building that houses a number of student and faculty services, Students for Liberty checked IDs before passing out cigarettes to students.
“It’s not about health; it’s about freedom of choice,” Alfaro said. “Being an adult is all about making your own choices.”
While people understand that eating junk food is bad for them, it is not the place of the government to make personal decisions about someone’s body, Alfaro said. To demonstrate the analogy, Students for Liberty also passed out apples and bananas in juxtaposition to doughnuts and chips.
“Most of us don’t smoke and a lot of the people who are signing the petition are non-smokers as well,” Alfaro said. “It’s a public space.”
In addition, the group passed out smoking cessation information.
The ASU Faculty Senate passed a motion in September, which recommends to the university president and provost to make all campuses, ASU-owned and ASU-rented facilities tobacco free.
“The health effects of discouraging tobacco use by moving to such a policy are well documented,” the motion states. “We also believe that such as policy would have the additional economic benefits of increased productivity and decreased usage of sick time. Finally, we are confident that prohibiting tobacco on campus will result in decreased maintenance expense for our facilities and grounds.”
ASU will join the Maricopa County Community College District campuses in a tobacco-free ban. MCCCD Chancellor Rufus Glasper announced last fall that it would begin a tobacco-free ban on its campuses beginning July, 1, 2012.
ASU is joining more than 600 colleges and universities around the country that have pledged to be completely tobacco free.
In a perfect world, Alfaro hopes that the ban would be repealed so that more students could be involved in the discussion, he said.
“I would be completely OK with having smoking sections,” he said. “We’re not using the public space correctly.”
As long as a person’s choices don’t infringe on others’ choices and health, it shouldn’t matter, Alfaro said. Smoking areas would create that middle ground between letting adults make their own decisions and keeping smoke away from those with medical conditions, such as asthma.
This is the compromise that Ryan Zambonini, a business management communications senior, who has been a smoker for a little over a year, would like to see.
“It’s a large enough campus with enough open areas (to separate smokers from non-smokers),” Zambonini said.
But some agree with the tobacco ban.
“ASU is an institute of higher education and it calls itself a New American University; we should be leading the way as far as tobacco,” said Nick Fradkin, a Legacy Youth Fellow, a part of Legacy for Longer Healthier Lives, which advocates for tobacco prevention and control.
Fradkin thinks it is hypocritical to not be in support of tobacco, yet pass out cigarettes.
“We need to encourage people to make healthy decisions,” he said.
Because the ban will not be enforced by the campus police, it may take time before the culture changes, Fradkin said.
“ASU community members are asked to help create a tobacco-free environment using community enforcement,” the ASU website states.
Visitors, volunteers and tailgaters will also be held to the tobacco ban, which includes cigarettes, pipes, smoke-less tobacco, chew and hookah.
The ban goes into effect on Aug. 1. For more information, visit https://students.asu.edu/tobaccofree/faqs.
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