Starting on Friday, UWSP students can vote to make our
campus home tobacco-free – yet many or even most have no idea that we have this
opportunity. We need to grab it.
The Student Government Association’s March 15-21 e-mail
referendum presents students with four options for UWSP: tobacco-free,
smoke-free, designated smoking areas, or no change. Tobacco-free is the only
good option, and here are the top 10 reasons why:
• Tobacco kills. There’s no question about this. Not
only users; non-users can also be killed (46,000 from secondhand smoke
annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control).
• Tobacco is expensive for everyone. We all pay for
cleaning up spit in the fountains or butts on the ground. Even more costly are
the insurance rates and medical costs that get spread around to all, regardless
of whether we use tobacco. See point No. 1.
• When you vote tobacco-free, you’re not taking away
anyone’s right to use tobacco; users can go elsewhere. You’re simply giving
back a basic right to everyone else, starting with the air we breathe.
• You’ll be helping those who do use tobacco. Tobacco
restrictions encourage users to quit. Study after study supports this idea.
• Career development. Many out-of-state organizations
have clear policies against hiring tobacco users; help your friends get a job
by helping them quit.
• Only about 10 to 12 percent of people on campus
smoke. That’s roughly the same percentage of people who suffer from asthma and
are at risk of smoke-induced attacks – some of which can literally kill. Are
you willing to support the “right” to use tobacco over the right to live in a
• A tobacco-free policy is clear. Smokers routinely
ignore state law requiring a 25-foot distance from all building entrances,
risking the health of everyone – students, faculty, and staff – who walks in a
door. Many campus hall residents can’t even open their windows in warm weather
for this reason.
• Empowerment. Tobacco companies spend big bucks to
target young people, using marketing gimmicks to hook us on their products.
When we have kids, they’ll try to hook them, too.
• Chancellor Bernie Patterson (whose leadership cabinet
has written a letter in support of a tobacco-free policy) has said his
administration cannot pay for shelters in designated smoking areas. In
addition, an SGA ad hoc committee voted against including the option of
designated smoking areas for cost reasons, but the SGA let a few of its members
convince the entire body to ignore that finding and add this option back in.
• If we don’t vote tobacco-free, the issue will come
back – despite the SGA’s proposed post-referendum ban on SGA discussion of the
issue until the end of the 2015-16 school year. Doesn’t it make you wonder why
the group would ban talk, but not tobacco? News flash for our elected
representatives: you can’t make people stop speaking up about the right thing
More than 60 campuses across Wisconsin are already
tobacco-free, and almost 800 nationwide. It’s time for us to catch up. Vote
Allison Brueggen, a senior pre-physical
therapy major, is a member of the Tobacco-Free Campus Initiative. The group is
on Facebook at SparkUwStevensPoint and on WordPress at http://uwspstillsmoking.wordpress.com.