Campus ban on smoking debated

Students and guests argued the pros and cons of banning tobacco from the campus in the Campbell Debate.

With temperatures in the single digits Thursday night, only the brave beared the cold to attend the Campbell Debate on establishing an on-campus smoking ban at Syracuse University.

Alexandra Curtis, the former Student Association President, and Republican State Sen. John DeFrancisco argued against the ban. Duane Ford, who served as Curtis’s vice president, and Professor Cliff Douglas of the University of Michigan argued for the ban.

The Campbell Debate focused on short speeches from each side, a rebuttal and then a segment of audience questions. The program aimed to “showcase a lively, informative exchange of ideas on controversial issues and to stimulate thinking in a way that is not common to contemporary American political issues.”

Moderated by Maxwell School Professor Grant Reeher, the debate began with Ford’s opening statement on the health and environmental issues surrounding smoking. He began by asking the audience to excuse his snow boots.

"This is actually my first debate and I want to preface this by saying ‘excuse my shoes,’” he said. “I chose functionality over fashion this evening.”

“The SU policy for university ethics and integrity is an extension of our, or the university’s, commitment to make every effort to provide a safe and healthy environment for all members of the community, to encourage low-risk choices that will not compromise positive living, learning and working experience for each member of the community,” Ford said.

Ford continued by saying the issue of smoking is an issue of ethics and integrity on a personal, social and environmental level, citing a multitude of toxic and non-biodegradable ingredients in cigarettes, cigarette smoke and littered cigarette butts.

After Ford, Curtis took the stand and began discussing the Student Association’s attempt in 2011 to install a ban. She used a Colleges for Change survey on the preferences of on-campus smoking to support her argument.

Curtis deemed that the survey, which recorded about 1,100 submissions of students and faculty, but failed to consider the opinions of 5-year students, was not only inadequate but also supportive of her argument. Of those surveyed, less than 25 percent wanted to ban tobacco use on campus.

“The numbers of students and faculty members who smoke is very low, as is the amount of people who were actually affected, or felt that they were affected by second-hand smoke,” Curtis said.

She continued her statement by bringing the large international population on campus to light. Curtis said an international student “expressed how smoking was part of her culture, it was something that she had inherently grown up with, something she didn’t want Syracuse to take away from her.”

After the guest speakers from each side had given their supporting arguments, they established mutual ground. None of the four debaters were smokers, they agreed smoking was an extremely unhealthy choice and supported the independent choice of students to quit smoking and focus on a healthy lifestyle. They disagreed on the merits of banning a Syracuse student or faculty member’s right to smoke.

In response to Douglas’s support of tobacco alternatives being readily available on a smoke-free campus, DeFrancisco argued, “I understand that these nicotine substitutes are available, and they’re legally available. And as far as I know, so is smoking.”

Curtis suggested potential alternatives to banning smoking entirely on campus, such as the installment of “smoking huts or gazebos,” but still opted not to agree with the tobacco ban. She said that adding another thing to the “to do” lists for Department of Public Safety officers would not be beneficial.

“I don’t think that asking a DPS officer to get out of his car once in a while to ask a student to stop smoking is going to prevent them from [completing other tasks],” Ford responded.

After audience questions, some on the specifics of a ban and implementation, the debate wrapped up. The votes taken in the beginning on the ban had altered by the conclusion of the debate: more in favor of prohibiting smoking in the end.

After the debate, Curtis said she hoped the discussion will continue. “It’s powerful for students to have a say in what they want in their lives,” she said.

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