Key Words: Smoke and Mirrors
Adam Key speaks out on new SHSU ban on tobacco politics
Published: Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 01:06
For years, smoking bans have been the trademark of “do nothing” politicians. The economy can be in the toilet, the crime rate can be up, and main street can be full of potholes, but all across the country, congresses, city councils, and other government boards will take aim at smokers. Can you blame them? Smokers are an easy target.
We no longer live in the Mad Men era where Don Draper slyly puffs away on a Lucky Strike while hard at work. No, from childhood, our teachers, DARE officers, and parents have hammered into us that smoking is disgusting and gross, usually before ducking out back to light a cigarette. Smokers are regularly vilified by government funded ad campaigns that flood our televisions, all the while laws prevent tobacco manufacturers from airing ads to advertise their product or even respond to these ridiculous allegations. And in the end, what politicians are really saying when they pass a smoking ban is “I realize that I have done an awful job, but hey, I saved you from the evil smokers!”
Fellow Bearkats, today our university and the Texas State Board of Regents join the ranks of the “do nothing” politicians. By the time you read this, Sam Houston, along with the other schools in our system, will have implemented a campus-wide ban on the use of tobacco. According to the policy, the “purpose is to promote a safe, healthy, and pleasant environment for the benefit of the members of our university family, guests, and visitors.”
Let’s be clear about something. This policy has absolutely nothing to do with safety. We already ban smoking inside buildings and within any normal range of entrances. Not a single person on this campus is exposed to direct secondhand smoke unless they want to be. But the real indicator that this policy has zero to do with safety is that it bans not only smoking, but chewing tobacco as well. Last I checked, there was no such thing as secondhand chew. Unless people chewing tobacco are going around spitting on passersby, there is no health risk to anyone but the user.
So now that we know it’s not about safety, it must be about creating a healthy and pleasant environment, right? Since we know that the old policy kept people safe from unwanted secondhand smoke, this must mean the university is concerned for the health of the tobacco users. The policy statement goes on to talk about this policy creating “greater awareness about the serious risks associated with the use of tobacco.” Congratulations Bearkats, the Board of Regents of is so concerned about your health that they want to eliminate the possibility of you using the #2 killer of Americans on its campuses.
But what about the #1 killer? Cholesterol and heart disease. Not only do they not want to protect you from this, they actually encourage you to use the products that cause it. Sam Houston has a Pizza Hut, Burger King, Einstein’s Bagels, and Chick-Fil-A just in the LSC to sell you all the greasy artery-clogging fast food they can cram down your soon-to-be obese throats. If the university and the Regents were truly concerned about your health, they would ban fast food on campus too, or at least stop selling it.
Of course, that not’s going to happen. Aramark, who runs all these campus eateries, provides a major source of revenue for the university. I’m not privy to the details of their contract, but I would venture to guess the university might lose a considerable chunk of Aramark’s change if we didn’t let them serve their greasy pizza and burgers. Perhaps if Philip Morris paid the university too, they would leave smokers alone. And while we’re on the subject of money, why isn’t smoking banned on the golf course? Does the university value the health of its golfers so much less than “the members of our university family, guests, and visitors” that they would willingly expose them to “the serious risks associated with the use of tobacco?” Or is the university concerned that if rich golfers cannot light up a cigar during their 18 rounds that they make take their business and their money elsewhere?
In the end, the smoking ban is nothing more than a smoke screen. I’ve often said that good politicians are like Houdini. He would be trapped against insurmountable odds and just when you thought all was lost, TA-DA, he escaped. The economy is down, yet the tuition rate is going up. Congress is investigating shady dealings between universities and Higher One, who issue our Bearkat Onecards. And just when things are looking their worst, TA-DA, the Board of Regents saves us from smokers and ourselves. But just like magic, it’s just an illusion.