End the Lollygagging and Make EWU a Tobacco-Free Campus


Gerald Maib for The Easterner

By The Easterner Editorial Board

Tobacco use is a choice of consumerism and consumption. Much akin to deciding to drink soda or to eat fast food, albeit a more addicting one. The problem with tobacco is that it has tangible and negative consequences for the consumer, bystanders and the facilities involved.

A survey given by ASEWU in 2013 reported that 67 percent of respondents said they were opposed to allowing smoking on campus, and were, instead in favor of a tobacco-free campus. We applaud their continued efforts to make the Cheney campus healthier and safer for all students.

The 2013 survey also showed that 85 percent of respondents reported being annoyed by secondhand smoke, and 90 percent believe that secondhand smoke is harmful. A second poll conducted in 2016 showed stronger support, with 82 percent saying they supported a tobacco/smoke free-policy at EWU.

As the policy proposal has now been submitted, EWU is reaching the possible implementation of a tobacco-free campus. To assuage worries and answer questions, EWU held an open forum where students, faculty and staff had a chance to speak freely about the policy.

The forum demonstrated what both surveys prior to the policy submission showed — the majority of campus doesn’t want tobacco on campus. EWU student Geoffrey Bluechel was the first to stand at the forum and bravely played one of the only non-supporters of the policy through most of the event.

Bluechel asked the collective forum if they had come to learn or simply reaffirm their belief in the policy, a valid question, before labeling arguments supporting the policy “pathos,” he also posed the “slippery slope” argument, asking if we take smoking away, where will we stop?

While his concerns were valid from a philosophical or sociological standpoint, they didn’t carry much weight in a grounded argument of smoking vs. non-smoking.

The arguments for a tobacco-free campus are not simply tear-provoking stories of individual struggles with second hand smoke. They are valid health concerns based in statistics and research, which many forum-goers recited for the benefit of the collected audience, and worries over the prohibitive costs that EWU pays concerning tobacco use.

Tobacco on campus brings more than just health concerns. Karen Lincoln from EWU Human Resources expressed that although they have not put a dollar amount to the costs associated with maintaining smoking areas, the responsible staff find it unpleasant as well as a fire hazard.

An individual from EWU facilities noted that although the Cheney Fire Department has only responded to two smoking related fires on campus, facilities puts out over a dozen a year. Not only is fire dangerous, obviously, but it is also expensive. Ken Johnson, Cheney Fire Department battalion chief, said that a non-emergency call costs $1,000 and that the cost quickly increases if the fire causes any damages.

Opponents of the policy cite two major arguments against a tobacco-free campus in the online comments section provided for the forum. One, that not allowing people to smoke is a violation of human rights. Two, that it is insensitive to disallow smoking as it is part of some International student culture.

What do you claim entitles your right to consume tobacco in public?

Alcohol use is restricted to designated businesses, events and your own home. Marijuana is much the same, with both carrying penalties for use in public. With recent health concerns, the consumption and sale of certain sugary products have been banned in many schools. Why would tobacco be any different?

Trish Hughes, wellness director for EWU Health and Wellness, addressed the cultural sensitivity concerns, saying that only nine percent of the campus community are active smokes, and that statistic extends to EWU’s international students.

We are a collective community of students who chose this school, the staff and faculty that work here. And together as a community we have expressed overwhelming support for a campus free of tobacco products and the detriments they bring.