Montclair State University’s administration thought their new tobacco policies would reduce the amount of smoking on campus by sparsely designating smoking areas around the university. They even went as far as labeling the school a tobacco-free campus. In reality, neither scenario decreased the amount of smokers. They are planning on officially making Montclair State a tobacco-free campus within the next three years, but realistically, the odds of them being successful in the foreseeable future is comically slim.
As a student who has recently quit smoking, I can tell you that the new smoking policies had almost nothing to do with my decision to quit. If you are like me, the new smoking policies probably made you want to smoke more. Frankly, I would not be surprised if you started smoking more than you were before. By implementing the new tobacco-free policies, the administration has accomplished nothing more than creating a community out of smoking.
That being said, I want you to bear in mind that I am not trying to argue that the act of smoking is a healthy habit. Everyone knows how terribly unhealthy it is over time. We could spend days discussing the various and often inevitable health risks. However, I want to shed some light on the big why that is always passed around with people who still smoke despite the knowledge we now have. With all of the confirmed risks, it can be confusing why people still continue to smoke.
Smoking is easily one of the most social and sober activities that someone could engage in. Personally, I have met more people this semester at the designated smoking areas in less time than it took to make all of my friends over the three years that I have been in college. Some people choose to smoke purely for the social satisfaction or the brief break from everything else going on. With a lot of people, I have found that one of the biggest pleasures in smoking comes from the ability to express oneself for a short period of time. In its simplest form, it is a brief relief from stress.
It used to feel as though you were an outsider when you were smoking a cigarette on campus. The sad part was that sometimes, depending on where you were, there was a slight feeling of being reduced to just one of those smokers over there. It was as if you were in a zoo exhibit or less human than the non-smokers that pass by with looks of judgement.
The new policies are helping to lift the public stigma of smoking since there are places where smokers can go and be out of the way of people who dislike smoking. So, I guess we should be thanking the administration in a way.
As I said, I have recently quit smoking. That was my choice, but I could have easily chosen otherwise. Smoking a cigarette is a choice. Time and time again history has shown us that people get more infuriated when they are stripped of certain choices. I understand what they are trying to do with the new labels and policies, but the most important aspect of these developments is to recognize that people are still left with choices.
The simple and blunt reality is that Montclair State is not tobacco-free. It is horribly unhealthy to smoke, but people will always choose to do it; especially in a school with a population as large as Montclair State. There are too many students and faculty members to effectively enforce such policies.
My advice to the administration is to let it go as far as the designated smoking areas they have established. At the end of the day, I highly encourage any smoker to quit, but do it on your own terms. It feels infinitely more redeeming, empowering and meaningful when you do it for yourself. Take it from me: one of those smokers over there.