If you didn’t know by now from the cheesy elementary school skits or the super hip MTV commercials, smoking tobacco is bad, bro. It’s even on the label of the product itself. Despite the onslaught of propaganda attempting to make smoking appear unappealing and disgusting in every possible way, people still smoke.
But, just because UNL bans smoking on campus, doesn’t mean people are going to stop.
The university’s smoking ban was created with the interests of the majority of campus in mind, but the new policy will not solve the issue of smoking on campus due to difficulty in enforcement. Additionally, it is not sympathetic toward the communities that engage in smoking.
Nicotine, the stimulant in tobacco, is ridiculously hard to quit. It’s more addictive than alcohol and is just as difficult to quit as hard drugs, including heroin, cocaine or amphetamines. It takes a long time, and a few attempts to drop the drug for good.
Addiction recovery is a long road, and withdrawal symptoms may affect students’ academic success. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some examples of nicotine withdrawal symptoms include: “feeling down or sad,” “having trouble sleeping,” “having trouble thinking clearly and concentrating” and “feeling restless and jumpy.” Clearly these symptoms would have an impact on class attendance, studying and overall academic performance.
Although the tobacco-free page does offer some suggestions for students who decide to quit smoking, it is difficult to say whether they are sufficient and if the smoking ban encourages students to actually quit. One review found that the success of university smoking bans and the reduction of smokers was inconclusive in cross-sectional studies. It also concluded that policies that included prevention and cessation programming — along with a strict policy like UNL’s — had better results.
UNL’s smoking policy is not considerate of the smoking demographic, which is comprised of groups that are more vulnerable and already face additional challenges to academic success.
In fact, more than 30 percent of individuals living below the poverty line use tobacco. Additional studies show that smokers who live below the poverty line are less likely to be successful in cessation attempts than smokers of another socioeconomic status.
At UNL, Chinese international students make up the largest percentage of students whose origin country is not the United States. China also ranks ninth out of all countries in the world for the number of cigarettes consumed per person, and smoking is accepted and common in Chinese culture. According to this fact, it is likely that a high percentage of Chinese international students at UNL also consume a large number of cigarettes.
International students already experience higher stress levels than domestic students. In addition to typical academic stressors, they are away from family. Their brains are on overtime if English is their non-native language and they are trying to navigate the nuances of a different culture. The added side effects of nicotine withdrawal would only add to these mounting challenges.
The UNL Tobacco-free in 2018 page reports 83.8 percent of students “supported some level of a smoking policy.” So, how did students wanting some level of a smoking policy get interpreted as banning all smoking and tobacco products and uses (except with special permission and circumstances) on campus?
There are other methods UNL could use to reduce the harmful effects of smoking, such as clearly marking and enforcing smoking zones and invoking consequences that would actually deter students from disregarding the rules. The University of Arkansas, for example, imposes a fine of anywhere from $100 to $500 on anyone caught smoking on campus.
But then again, even restricting smoking by designating zones, or imposing hefty fines does not address the fundamental flaws of this policy. This smoking ban policy is unenforceable and is not considerate of the vulnerable demographics of smokers.