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Smokers Fight Back Against The War on Fun

joe camelAs academics and poseurs alike raise their lighters in revolt against the impending smoking ban, Students for Sensible Drug Policy have drafted an open letter to the Tobacco Workgroup protesting its methodology. The ban proposed by Michael McNeil and the Workgroup would outlaw smoking within Columbia’s property, even extending its reach to the surrounding sidewalks.

Although the Workgroup conducted a survey last spring and held a townhall meeting last week to hear student voices, our smoking scribes prove that Frontiers of Science has some use: they claim that the sample size was too small to indicate true sentiment.

 Full letter after the jump.

Dear Michael McNeil and the Tobacco Workgroup,   


We write this open letter on behalf of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a campus group that promotes sensible and effective approaches to policies regarding tobacco and other drugs. Naturally, our members are concerned about the efforts to ban smoking on the Morningside campus. More important than our stance on the issue, however, is our concern with the process by which this policy change may take place.   

As we understand, a survey to gauge student opinion was sent last spring, receiving less-than-impressive levels of response. In addition, a townhall meeting was held last week. While all attendees of the meeting opposed the current proposal, according to the straw-poll survey conducted, the turnout was still relatively low.   

  We believe this reaction is a result of the timing and advertisement of the email and townhall meeting, and not indicative of the opinions of the student body. The initial survey was not advertised well, and some students have reported that they did not even receive the survey. The townhall meeting was also under-advertised: although members of our group have been following the issue closely, we were only made aware of the meeting with less than one week’s notice. By the day of the meeting itself, many students who have not followed the initiative as avidly but still feel passionately about the efforts one way or the other were completely unaware that an important meeting was scheduled for that evening.   

This lack of advertising is disturbing, because it appears to be the student body’s only opportunity to provide feedback on the proposal. A second survey is due to be sent next week; however, the survey has not been officially announced to the student body, and access would be limited to a small sample of students. In addition, it appears that this sample would be stratified, which raises important questions about the way that the survey will be conducted. Stratification can introduce selection bias into survey results, as not all groups of people will feel the burden of a ban equally. (Undergraduates who live on campus, for example, will be affected more than graduate students and professors who live off-campus). More disturbing is the news that the sample size may not be fixed in advance. Variable sample sizes can lead to grossly distorted statistics. And, finally, the entire survey will be administered only to a portion of the student body. For the majority of students who will not be sent the survey, the under-advertised townhall meeting was the only avenue by which to influence the process.       

Despite what the townhall meeting and initial survey might suggest, our group maintains that the student body is far from apathetic. A few weeks ago, our group hosted an event on the steps of Low to raise awareness of the proposed ban. In just over one hour, we were able to collect the names and signatures of 75 students who opposed the proposal. We believe that our ability to collect signatures at such a high rate – more than one per minute – demonstrates that there is strong campus interest about this issue. The problem is that students are unaware of any ways to vocalize their thoughts to the administration and the Tobacco Workgroup.   

Given the importance of this proposal and the large impact it would have on smokers and nonsmokers alike, as well as for cultural groups on campus that smoke hookah, we would like to open the path for dialogue about the proposal between the student body, the administration, and the Tobacco Workgroup. Many people on campus have strong opinions on both sides of this issue, and these people deserve a direct and open line of communication with both the Workgroup and the administration, so that they can influence a policy that impacts them so significantly.


Students for Sensible Drug Policy

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  • agreed says:

    @agreed I never took this survey, wasn’t aware of it, and would have voted against the ban despite being a non-smoker. There is much more cognizance of the smoking issue now, and a new poll should be disseminated.

  • Fact Checker says:

    @Fact Checker The recent townhall was sponsored by CCSC and fellow student governance groups, not the tobacco work group. Few students bothered to show up. This letter reads like a vocal minority trying to “speak” for the majority. Just look at the number of people that have declined to participate in the facebook “event.”

    1. I think says:

      @I think you miss the point of their letter.

      Reread the last sentence of the first paragraph – they’re criticizing the methodology, not the arguments. Hence why they don’t try to argue for or against it in the letter.

      1. I think says:

        @I think you, and SSDP miss the point of the methodology.

        The idea of the stratified sample was made in an effort to give the minority smokers a voice, not silence them, because otherwise this small group (overrepresented in smaller colleges with more international students, especially GS and the graduate schools) will get lost in the sea of ‘wtf who cares?’


        Second, the student councils have bent over backwards to cater to this minority group, but they’ve been so apathetic (no surprise here, if anyone knows campus smokers…) as to not voice their concern. Why are student councils working so hard to represent a minority group’s “rights” against the overwhelming student opinion (apathy)? More importantly, why did SSDP only step up to the plate AFTER the town hall meeting took place, and still isn’t working with the class councils?


  • Hooah says:

    @Hooah Ban smoking!

  • Shouldn't says:

    @Shouldn't this read:

    “Smokers Fight Back Against The War on Cancer”?

    How is protecting breathable air for everyone else a “war on fun”.

    Enough with this lame “war on fun” title you give to everything you don’t like.

  • Please. says:

    @Please. You “non-smokers” are getting far more particulates and carcinogens from this “breathable” New York City air than you ever would from the brief passage through a smoker’s outdoor secondhand.

    1. No. says:

      @No. Stop making this argument. Just because New York City air quality is not necessarily that of Montana, it could be worse. And regardless of just how “bad” it is, cigarette smoke is ADDING to it. Just because there’s pollution does not mean that second-hand smoke disappears into it like the fine morning mist. The toxic cloud of disgusting less-discreet* smokers blow into the faces of those around them is still more harmful and more immediately unpleasant than the ordinary New York air around it.

      *I recognize that many smokers are actually pretty considerate and do their best to exhale to the side or down . . . So thanks for that.

      1. no, thank you. says:

        @no, thank you. you’re the real hero in all of this.

  • I grant you says:

    @I grant you that secondhand smoke adds to the problem, but, without having any hard data, I imagine it accounts for less than 2% of NYC air pollution. Is it worth infringing on citizens’ civil liberties in order to remove such a small percentage?

  • wait says:

    @wait Who’s removing anything? You’re just moving it a few hundred feet to the entrances of campus, where it dissipates and spreads….

    So no, you’re not even doing that.

    1. agreed says:

      @agreed where the fuck else is it going to go?

      y’all are ridiculous.

    2. For real says:

      @For real I’m a nonsmoker, but I’ve never been bothered by someone smoking on campus, at least for more than a second or two. I also walk through the gates very often, and would rather not have to fight my way through a smelly mob of smoking people to get onto campus.

      Plus banning hookahs on the steps is just not cool.

  • hahah says:

    @hahah what a bunch of sissies, drugs are bad for u…not saying dnt do em, just dont flip a shit if they ban em for the health of others

    only ppl who chain smoke on this campus are smelly old washed up GS students who as with barnard girls dont deserve an ivy league education

  • c'mon says:

    @c'mon I understand a call for smokers’ rights but what about the rights on non-smokers. Don’t I have the right to walk in front of Butler without having to trudge through a cloud of smoke? I’m against an all out smoking ban but I think that there should be areas on campus where smoking is banned.

    1. sure says:

      @sure And we already have that – because of state law prohibiting smoking within 25 feet of a building entrance. The problem is that we don’t enforce it, not that we need a bigger ban

  • really? says:

    @really? i’m really tired of the “what about non-smokers’ rights” question. your “rights” are to not smoke. smokers’ rights are to be allowed to smoke. you already impinge on smokers’ rights by not allowing them to smoke within 25-50 feet of buildings. you’re not going to be able to “avoid” smoke, you’ll just be moving everyone to the gates, in which case y’all are going to be engulfed in smoke any time you try to leave campus. seems like that would impinge on all of your “rights” more.

  • seriously? says:

    @seriously? Smoking causes CANCER! End of discussion. Ban it on campus!

    1. Really? says:

      @Really? Diet Coke causes CANCER! End of discussion. Ban it on campus!

    2. Seriously! says:

      @Seriously! Cell phones cause CANCER! End of discussion. Ban them on campus!

      1. yes says:

        @yes Everything causes fucking cancer! Just get over it!

        I think the level of noise on campus on the weekends prevents me from sleeping therefore is bad for my health and should be stopped at the gates by installing a giant goddamn dome over all of columbia. maybe then we can pump in our own air.

        You whiny anti-smoking folks are getting hurt more by your unhealthy diets and lack of proper exercise than any possible cigarette smoke.

  • really. says:

    @really. Living eventually leads to Death! Ban Living!

  • lol says:

    @lol I love how the people who try and comment about pollution know absolutely nothing about fluid dynamics, mass transport, atmospheric circulation, aerosols, and basic human pulmonary anatomy just to name a few of the many subjects that are necessary when talking about (any type of) smoke.

    Actually, fuck that. Go learn about statistics and rates of cancer as caused by carcinogens at various levels of exposure.

  • yo evenrone knws says:

    @yo evenrone knws smokers are pathetic drug addicts period

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