Smokers Should Be Respected – Not Restricted

For many students, the freedom of being able to buy a packet of cigarettes on college grounds is more often than not, taken for granted.
However at University College Dublin, the purchasing of cigarettes is now no longer an option for the university’s 30,000 students.

The sale of tobacco products and cigarettes, including e-cigarettes, is now prohibited in the university’s convenience stores and student union outlets, following a referendum held by the UCD Student Union held last September, which resulted in 55 per cent of students voting in favour of the ban.

This ban on cigarette sales however appears to have been part of a larger movement towards making UCD entirely smoke free, with college authorities now considering extending the ban across the entire Belfield campus – and they appear to be setting a trend.

Trinity College Dublin are also now seriously considering making their campus tobacco-free. However, their proposal has not received the same level of support from their students, with a referendum on the ban held last year resulting in 53 per cent of students saying ‘no’.

The topic of tackling smoking in colleges has sparked a heated debate between both sides of the argument, which is understandable as it is not exactly a clean-cut issue.

With The National Tobacco Control Office stating that smoking rates are highest amongst young adults aged between 18 and 34, it is clear that the number of young people addicted in Ireland is still of great concern. With this in mind, I can see why colleges wish to ban the sale of cigarettes. After all, they don’t want to be seen promoting a habit that results in 5,200 deaths in Ireland every year.

However, in my view, banning smoking altogether on campus is simply taking things a step too far. College students who smoke are not children who need to be chastised. They are grown adults who are perfectly entitled to partake in this legal activity if they choose to.

Yes, everyone knows that smoking is bad for a person’s health. But when aware of the potential health repercussions, someone still chooses to smoke, should their free will really be intruded upon by authorities? And will such bans truly result in young people kicking the habit?

Despite the fact that 88 deaths per month in Ireland are directly related to alcohol, no one is speaking about banning the sale of this essentially toxic substance on campus, never mind its consumption. So why are smokers being targeted?

On a day-to-day basis, smokers do not cause any inconvenience to those who do not choose to smoke. But for smokers themselves, such a ban would force them out of their own college campus, a place that is a second home for most students. Aren’t Universities supposed to facilitate the needs of their students, not shut them out?

If a complete ban on smoking is to be introduced in UCD, with other universities following suit, it is vital that college authorities provide the proper measures to make this ban work. After all, do we really want the entrance to our university grounds, a place which we, as students, are encouraged to take pride in, swallowed up by herds of people suffocating in a cloud of smoke? Wouldn’t such gatherings pose greater health risks to students attending? Passive smoking for one?

While small steps taken by College Authorities to discourage smoking are welcome, such measures should take into account that smoking is a personal choice, and not something that can or should be policed.

Lisa O’Donnell

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