To the disdain of smokers and acclaim of abstainers, the University of Minnesota's campus-wide tobacco ban was officially enacted in July, a few months shy of the fall semester. Ashtrays were present throughout campus for the first few weeks of school, but have since been removed. Signs informing students of the smoking ban have popped up along sidewalks. Professors no longer hold back when they catch students with cigarettes. For a regular smoker like myself, it's first world hell.
I admittedly had my first cigarette to impress a punk kid who never reciprocated my misguided love, but smoking has since become a way to quell anxiety and cravings for more destructive substances. It's the same for my friends. Cigarettes are our reprieve from the stresses that arise from juggling school, full-time jobs, and the occasional bout of depression. We've tried to quit. We weren't ready. It's none of your business.
President Kaler, it's time to get real: The ban won't stop us from smoking, either on or off campus. In fact, it will inspire us to smoke more, just to spite you and your liberal, liberty-free policies. Give us designated smoking areas, or give us death!
Here are 11 reasons to do away with the tobacco ban:
11. We'll be late to class. Our campus is not small. If we leave school grounds to smoke a cigarette, it will take ten minutes to get off campus, five to smoke, and another ten to get back to class. Breaks between classes are 15 minutes long. If smoking a cigarette within the ban's parameters takes 25 minutes... well, you do the math. We're going to be late for class.
10. Cigarettes are a coping mechanism.
News flash: Not every anxious/depressed/generally crazy person can afford therapy or pharmaceuticals. For many of us, smoking is one of few coping skills to cling to in the midst of active mental health issues. The university is also home to a number of sober students, for whom smoking is a last-ditch effort to abstain from drugs and alcohol. It's not the healthiest option, but physical sickness isn't usually the first thing on a mentally sick person's mind.
School is stressful, and cigarettes provide time to relax and socialize. The ban will destroy the smoker's bond -- the sanctified union of smokers who know their habit is unhealthy, but indulge anyway. 9. Smoking makes us look cool.
If we can't smoke, how will anyone be able to differentiate between the cool kids and the squares? Look at this leather jacket! Admire this mohawk! My entire aesthetic will be ruined if I can't show the world I smoke cigarettes. I need brick walls to lean on. I need cigarette smoke to fend off frat boys. Honestly, I just need people to find me intimidating so they don't trigger my social anxiety by talking to me.
8. Nicotine withdrawal kicks in within two to three hours, a.k.a. I need a goddamn cigarette
Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include anxiety, depression, intense cravings, hunger, headaches, irritability, drowsiness, and difficulty concentrating. If I'm stuck in a three-hour class, had my last cigarette 15 minutes away from my classroom, and have to wait three and a half more hours to smoke again, you can bet I'm going to be in a bad mood.
The classroom is not an appropriate venue for cigarette withdrawal. If we're going to quit smoking, we'll do it over spring break -- unless, of course, the U is comfortable with kids throwing staplers at classroom projectors in the midst of nic fits.
7. Smokers will cover campus in cigarette butts.
Smokers will not stop smoking at school. Instead, they will find nooks and crannies around campus to smoke in. The ashtrays are gone, which means those crannies will soon be home to slews of cigarette butts.
If I weren't smoking on campus, I would smoke one foot beyond it, drop my cigarette butt on the ground, and walk away. My friends and their friends would do the same. In time, we would form a massive cigarette butt wreath around campus. Merry Christmas, Minnesota. We hope you like the smell of soggy tobacco.
6. The ban encourages animosity toward the school.
I'm in a three-hour class with a fellow smoker. During our five-minute break, we sit in an isolated corner outside the building, talking shit about the smoking ban. Other students join in, waving their cigarettes around in animated protest. Soon, an angry crowd forms to bitch about our collective resentment toward the school for taking away our rights after sucking our bank accounts dry for tuition. Let's say our professor steps outside in the midst of our bitch fest and makes a snarky comment about how smoking is against the rules. We'll build a resentment against her, which will carry over into class. It's a vicious cycle.
5. Prohibiting smokeless tobacco sends a clear message.
The U of M's smoking policy not only bans cigarettes, it also prohibits the use of chewing tobacco, snuff, e-cigarettes, pipes, and any other tobacco product you can think of. Many former smokers rely on e-cigs as cheap alternatives to smoking cessation products, like the patch and lozenges. Banning smokeless tobacco options makes it clear that this isn't just about shielding other campus "community members" from secondhand smoke -- it's about trying to force tobacco users to quit. Why not give us a chance to collect empirical evidence? If we get sick, we get sick, and then we'll really learn our lesson.
Providing resources for those who want to give up smoking is great, but don't shove them down our throats. If the school knew anything about addiction recovery, they'd realize their has to be some willingness on the addict's part before real change can be made.
4. The exceptions to the smoking ban are useless.
The U's smoking policy allows for the use of tobacco in the following, pre-approved cases: scientific studies that require tobacco use, Native American spiritual and cultural ceremonies, theatrical productions, and inside of vehicles. For the majority of student smokers, the only viable option on the list is to smoke in our cars.
Parking at the U costs upward of $12 per day, and even more during events. The monthly rate for lots, ramps, and garages is between $67 and $150. While the idea of smoking in my car on school grounds elicits fond memories of rolling blunts and blasting Biggie in my high school crush's Saturn, there's no chance in hell I'll pay that much to have a cigarette. 3. Our self-destructive habits are none of the university's business.
Do you know how many times per week our mothers remind us that smoking will give us cancer, emphysema, heart failure, strokes, and fucked-up babies? Do you realize that every pack of cigarettes we buy proudly displays a Surgeon General's Warning? Or that we can't get through more than three YouTube videos without being subjected to a Truth advertisement featuring a former smoker with a voice like Steven Hawking and a smoking-related horror story?
Because none of us had the privilege of skipping D.A.R.E. in grade school, most smokers are well aware that smoking will eventually lead to health problems. We choose to do it anyway. So please, non-smokers, ride your high horses into smokeless skies and leave us self-destructive folks alone.
2. The ban will not convince us to quit.
If the overall goal is to get students smokers to stop smoking, the school is sorely misinformed. Did alcoholics stop drinking during prohibition? Hell no. Substances don't disappear after they're banned -- people simply find covert means of producing and ingesting them. When the 18th Amendment went into effect, bootlegging, binge drinking, and booze smuggling became the norm. Since cigarettes are as physically addictive as heroin, it's safe to say that a poorly enforced tobacco ban won't stop us.
We're teenagers and 20-somethings, full of misplaced rage and rebellious urges. When you tell us not to do something, we'll do it tenfold. And trust me, we'll be assholes about it. Caught one of us smoking on campus? Too bad. Since you can't give us tickets, we'll exhale in your face and walk away.
1. Smokers and nonsmokers will end up hating each other.
Earlier this week, a professor caught me smoking near the bike racks between two East Bank buildings. He shook his head at me. I shook mine back. He ran down an entire flight of stairs and through two sets of double doors to inform me that I could not smoke on campus. Duh, I knew that. Why else would I be hiding by the bike racks? I looked him in the eyes, put my cigarette out on my bike frame, and cycled away, butt-hurt and vengeful.
The university has put the responsibility of enforcing the smoking ban in the hands of students and faculty, which means we've got a bunch of wannabe dictators running around campus, getting off on the opportunity to yell at people for breaking rules. If the U administrators had a sit-down chat with the history department, they might remember that this is how wars start -- docile wars, in which ammo consists of cigarette butts and snide remarks, but wars nonetheless.