In going with the flow of about 1,500 other schools, Stony Brook University has recently unveiled that it plans on banning all sorts of tobacco products on all its campuses as of Jan. 1. Though it’s an admirable goal, and a one that I actually support, the logistics of a ban on campus are unrealistic and just a waste of the university’s resources and money.
Banning tobacco products is probably for the betterment of the workers, students and faculty on Stony Brook’s campus. However, with no actual way of enforcing this policy, the university is basically telling people, “Hey, we don’t think you guys should smoke,” which is about as useful as trying to tell a pre-med student that they’ll do alright on their BIO 203 midterm.
In the university’s “University Policy Manual P112: Tobacco-Free Policy,” under the ‘Compliance’ section, the way that Stony Brook plans enforce this policy is to entrust “University leaders, supervisors, and building managers…to support individuals that are seeking to become tobacco-free by making appropriate referrals and to inform/promote compliance in their area(s) of responsibility.” The university also plans on putting up notices throughout the campus, because that will be a sure-fire way to stop people from smoking.
How does the university think that this will even be remotely effective? In what situation has telling people not to do something wrong actually worked?
When the information was released that there would be a ban on these products, it would have been be rational to think that the University Police Department would be used to actually enforce the policy by handing out fines to those students caught breaking the law. However, there is nothing in the policy that actually states that fines will be handed out to people caught smoking, dipping, or smoking hookah on campus.
Instead, it appears that Stony Brook will be following NYU’s initiative of using peers to enforce the plan.
For those who might not know what peer discipline will entail, it’s basically students telling other students not to use tobacco products on campus—which is arguably one of the worst plans one can think of.
If Stony Brook actually wants to effectively ban tobacco products on the main campus, then it shouldn’t use students and signs to tell smokers that they shouldn’t use tobacco products on campus. Instead, the university should allow campus police or other university officials to be able to enforce these rules with punitive measures, just like how police and government officials enforce the rules of society. At Tulane University, for example, any smoking violators are burned with a $25 fine. At the University of Florida, noncompliant students get sent to the Dean of Students.
Though Stony Brook might not want to punish people who smoke on campus, the university also has to understand that if it wants to enforce this ban on campus, then it will have to crack down on the people who are breaking the rules.
If the goal is to eliminate tobacco usage on campus by sternly looking at smokers and telling them “put that out,” then this entire initiative will be a waste of the campus resources. Though the goal is noble, Stony Brook needs to find a more effective way of enforcing its policies if it ever really hopes to make the university a “tobacco-free” campus.