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Forum Debates Future of Smoking at Kenyon

By Sarah Lehr

With Campus Senate’s current consideration of a smoking ban, many students, faculty and staff have been wondering: should smoking at Kenyon be banned, regulated or left alone? The Center for the Study of American Democracy sponsored a forum on Tuesday, Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. in Peirce Pub to discuss the issue. The forum included a panel of three students and two faculty members.

The first panelist was Campus Senate Co-Chair Charlie Fine ’12. He presented what he described as a “moderate alternative” to Senate’s proposed outright smoking ban, which would begin in 2016. The moderate alternative proposes that indoor smoking remain banned everywhere. Fine also said that the alternative proposal “draws a distinction between more public and more residential areas and limits smoking to predominately residential areas.” Unlike the original proposal, which would ban smoking on all College property, the new proposal would continue to allow outdoor smoking in residential areas like the South and First-year Quads and areas around apartments. Smoking would, however, be banned in the College property between Wiggin Street and Higley Hall from north to south and between College Road and Acland Street from west to east and on the section of Middle Path north of Higley.

Drawing these distinctions “prevents a congregation of smokers” like those that often form outside of Olin Library and Peirce Hall, Fine said. “Also, it makes enforcing quite a bit easier.” The moderate proposal stems from “recognition that we’re never going to get rid of smoking entirely on this campus,” he said. The alternative proposal is consistent with the tone of past College policy. “We like to walk the middle path,” he said, referring to the reasonableness of the proposal.

Jacob Smith ’12, the second panelist, opened by saying, “I’m a senior political science major and a frequent second-hand smoker.” Smith advocated a full campus-wide ban on smoking. He reasoned that the College has a moral obligation to protect the health of students by banning smoking. “Smoking is fundamentally different from many other harmful behaviors because someone else’s decision to smoke around me does, in fact, harm me,” he said. With a full ban, the College would “send a clear and positive message to students about what it stands for” that “would attract prospective students.”

The final student panelist, Campus Senate Greek Council representative Nikola Popovic ’12, advocated regulation of smoking, but not a ban. “Completely banning smoking would not eliminate it,” he said. “We would just push the problem underground.” He added, “I also know that smoking is not something you can force people to quit overnight.” An outright ban is inconsistent with the College’s message according to Popovic. “As a liberal arts institution, Kenyon is about educating students to think for themselves,” he said.

Senate Co-Chair and Professor of Spanish Clara Roman-Odio spoke next in favor of the more stringent regulations detailed in Senate’s alternative proposal. She commented on the harm of second-hand smoke and said that the alternative proposal would “move smoking away from high-traffic areas.” An outright ban is not appropriate, according to Roman-Odio. Rather, students should be personally accountable for whether or not they choose to smoke. “I agree that students are much more educated than previous generations about the addiction and health risks of smoking,” she said. In addition, she worried that a ban might “create a culture of resistance.”

Professor of Anthropology David Suggs spoke last. “I think I was asked to do this because I’m a smoker,” he said. Regarding possible Campus Senate smoking legislation, Suggs said, “I don’t have a strong opinion on this issue.” Suggs emphasized that the effects of second-hand smoke are real and that, as a smoker, he personally makes an effort not to impose his smoking on anyone else. If Senate enacted a ban on smoking, Suggs said he would comply and that he would likely smoke in his car before class. “Smoking helps me to center my thoughts, so that I can best be there for my students,” he said. “Not all of us who smoke do so for equal reasons or out of stupidity.”

After the panelists weighed in, discussion opened up to audience members. One student expressed dissatisfaction with the original smoking prohibition proposal that Senate is currently considering. If smoking were banned, it would become even more problematic, especially for addicted students, she said. In response, Fine said, “That’s a very legitimate concern. To clarify, both Senate’s proposed ban and Senate’s proposed alternative do include smoking cessation programming.”

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