Smoking pinocchio

Oral fixation

A sparse handful of senators and spectators filled the giant Jerome L. Greene lecture hall to debate the merits of the newly proposed campus-wide smoking ban. A vote on the ban might take place at this Friday’s full Senate meeting. Bwog dutifully sent our Tobacco Bureau Chief to bring you unfiltered coverage.

With participants and interested listeners only sprinkled throughout the sizable room, the hearing was left largely without a sense of real purpose. This air of illegitimacy was highlighted by attendees’ needs to periodically anounce their own statuses as smokers—yes, no, only-when-drunk—throughout the meeting. There were only a few main topics presented, which were speckled with a handful of opinions and clarifications. An approximate synopsis:

The Students for a Sensible Drug Policy representative spoke at length about how the university needs to frame the discussion in terms that reflect the medical implications of tobacco as a drug. The speaker was careful to say that tobacco use should not be glorified, but suggested that the debate too often creates a false dichotomy between smokers and non-smokers, when in reality if we are to examine this from a public health angle, it’s only the health of the community with which we should be ultimately concerned (Spotted: Jeremy Bentham smiling over in his glass case). To operate in a framework that pits the two sides against each other is unnecessarily adversarial. Additionally, SSDP reminded those present that there are certain health costs associated with a drug ban, and there needs to be adequate health resources available to habitual drugs users who are dramatically affected.

A GS student then argued that a campus-wide ban would result in a concentration of smokers around the few entrances/exits to campus, and that this would in fact affect more pedestrians with a higher concentration of smoke. In effect, we would just push the smokers from in front of Butler to in front of the gates.

A human resources representative stated that any ban would require the renegotiation of union contracts. She warned that the union collective bargaining agreement might well lead to a situation where union workers are allowed to smoke on campus during their break times. Apparently, their legal rights are protected prior to University policies.

Another woman, who is both a professor and mother of a student, argued that kids already smoke in their dorm rooms, and that a ban would only incentivize indoor smoking. Indoor smoking, she said, was of course much more dangerous than simply letting people go outside. Indeed, she insisted that the Senate be cognizant of the fact that a sizable portion of undergraduate students actually live on our campus, and that this ban would disproportionately affect them.

Aki Terasaki, CCSC President, reported that CCSC adopted a resolution regarding the smoking ban. Considering that 20-foot signage has only just been posted, they suggest that the University wait two years to allow the policy to be fully implemented, enforced, and studied.

Mark Cohen, B-school professor, complained about the student-centricity of the debate. He claimed that students are only a part of the community, and not, “at the center of the universe,” and that the university doesn’t, “revolve around the students like the sun, the moon, the stars.” Cohen was apparently a smoker as an undergrad here at Columbia, and he assures everyone that he probably would have, “resented the hell out of anyone trying to tell [him] what to do.” Nevertheless, he asserted that there is, “every reason to believe that a significant majority of the community supports this [ban].”

Next, an Architecture graduate student reminded Cohen that the Senate was not simply a majoritarian body, but that their job was to consider the rights and interests of minorities as well. Further, he argued that enough architecture students are hopelessly addicted to cigarettes that a ban would just be cruel. The pity card probably won’t get the smokers far, however.

A Law School professor further poked Cohen by reminding him that the University Senate doesn’t have any real representation from non-student, non-faculty workers, and that they will be affected by the ban too, so that means we shouldn’t be so strident with our predictions of support.

Another attendee played an audio file off of his iPhone that supposedly was an interview between him and a smoking-friendly asthmatic person. This was submitted as evidence that asthmatics are all okay with smokers. The short episode was uncomfortable until a moderator cut off the audio file.

Lastly, a Senator suggested that people ought to enforce the 20-foot rule themselves, and that Public Safety isn’t equipped to deal with simple disciplinary issues. Unless some sort of punishment was established that Public Safety could handle themselves, an individual in violation of the smoking ban or 20-foot rule could walk away claiming not to be a Columbia student. Public safety can’t stop anything that isn’t illegal.

Probably not of legal age via theworldisverystrange