Fairfield seeks to empower its students by transitioning into a tobacco-free campus. To reap the benefits, our school must prepare for the inevitable challenges. Before arriving at Fairfield, I attended University of Massachusetts Amherst and Southern Connecticut State University — two smoke free campuses — and had the privilege to witness their successes and failures. I feel that our University going tobacco-free is praiseworthy, though only possible if the administration seeks to understand conflicting views and challenges.

On one hand, many students at UMass voluntarily obey the no-smoking policy. Alternatively, few SCSU students could bother to respect the rules. The key differentiator, here, is respect. While UMass said, “You guys are great; we trust that you will follow our new rules,” SCSU contrasted  by emphasizing, “You guys are bad; we’re going to force you to be good.” Of course, the latter adversely affected school spirit.

The first dilemma is when the policy disrespects students’ autonomy in their decision-making. While smoking is unhealthy, a smoker’s personal choice still ought to be respected. Fairfield’s decision to ban smoking is comparable to proposals to tax soft drink purchases: both are well-intentioned, yet intrusive by forcing a choice on others’ lifestyles.

Unfortunately, smoking is a psychological need equivocal to needing to stretch after waking up. While the psychology of smoking remains outside the scope of this article, one should definitely understand that nicotine withdrawal is an acute and excruciating process. The New York Times article title describing the psychology behind smoking says it all: “Nicotine – Harder to Kick … Than Heroin.” Our University should consider how the stress of quitting disturbs the mental health and/or academic progress of a smoker in order to courteously accommodate them.

Policy-makers also should consider the Department of Public Safety’s reputation. Currently, DPS has a positive relationship with students and are known for their professional, speedy handling of issues. Enforcing a zero-tobacco policy is a time-consuming responsibility for DPS. Those in charge must make sure that the quality of service that DPS provides for Fairfield remains unchanged, which involves considering the other, more pressing security matters.

The issue concerns more members of our community than we may realize. All are equal in the eyes of nicotine: students, professors, dining hall staff, maintenance workers, university leaders and anyone else are equally susceptible to addiction. Some inevitably will choose not to quit. When these smokers need their fix, they will find the nearest off-campus spot for their smoke break: in front of one of our school gates, possibly on North Benson Road or Round Hill. At SCSU and UMass Amherst, students and faculty alike frequent nearby, yet off-campus spots like these. This reality would convey a less-than-stellar image to the community.

The bottom line is that if a student forks upwards of $60,000 each year — a generous sum, indeed — in tuition and living expenses, how can the University turn around and bite the hands that feed them? To make the transition successful, it must be considerate to each smoker’s needs. The movers and shakers ought to respond strategically, handling concerns like these to reach the milestone successfully. Let us begin with the end in mind: a respectful, happy and healthy campus.

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