Our Opinion: New smoking policy takes on personal liberty

The Wood Word, Editorial Staff

Marywood University will be rolling out a new no-smoking policy that will take effect on July 1 of this year. The point of the new policy can be summed up rather simplistically: use of tobacco on campus will be totally prohibited.

An email sent to students and faculty at the university details the policy. Included in the email is a list of places that smoking will be prohibited on campus and the procedure for how violations of the policy will be handled.

In addition to prohibiting smoking on campus grounds and in campus buildings, the policy also bans smoking in personal cars “parked or operated on University property.” This seems impossible to enforce, unless Campus Safety plans on pulling people over who drive through campus with a lit cigarette in their hands.

Besides the absurdity of a non-police figure pulling someone over for a perfectly legal activity, this policy spells a major possible issue for university students, faculty, and staff.

This issue is a violation of personal liberties. The email sent to students and faculty states that students found to be violating the new policy will be reported by campus safety to the senior director of student conduct and residence life for “appropriate action.” Employees will similarly be reported to the associate vice president of human resources.

Of course, Marywood is a private institution. The University is well within its rights to say that tobacco use is no longer allowed on campus.

But what was wrong with the previous policy? It allowed for a handful of designated smoking spots on campus, such as the “butt hut” behind the Nazareth Student Center, but smoking was otherwise prohibited. Why suddenly switch to a system where individuals can be reprimanded for what was previously allowed?

The switch from a few locations allowing smoking to a total ban on smoking seems like an attack on smokers. Patricia Dunleavy, associate vice president for human resources, argues that, since the university’s motto promotes “holiness, knowledge, and health,” the new policy fits more in line with the university’s mission by promoting a healthier lifestyle.

But that does not change the fact that smokers are adults who are free to choose an unhealthy lifestyle if they’d like. Besides, if Marywood is going to prohibit one unhealthy lifestyle on campus, why stop there? Perhaps there should be a ban on Doritos and Pepsi products, too.

Marywood’s new smoking policy will most likely do nothing to create a “healthier lifestyle” for smokers. They’ll just go elsewhere to smoke. They’ll just cross the street to leave university property.

It will be interesting to see how kindly Scranton and Dunmore residents take to Marywood University students and faculty standing in front of their homes trying to get a cigarette in before class, away from the watchful eye of campus safety.