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Commonwealth Student Government Condemns Tobacco Free Policy In New Statement

Penn State’s Council of Commonwealth Student Governments (CCSG) is no longer on board with the university’s tobacco- and smoke-free policy, according to a statement released on the organization’s Instagram page Wednesday evening.

Penn State officially became a tobacco-free campus in the fall, prohibiting smoking and tobacco use on all locations considered university property. This includes a ban on cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, pipes, smokeless tobacco, all nicotine delivery devices, and other tobacco products.

“The concerns raised among Commonwealth campus students are that the policy is too broad, and not enforceable,” the CCSG statement reads. “Since the ban includes forms of tobacco that aren’t necessarily as harmful to other students, like chewing tobacco or e-cigarettes, there is a concern that the ban is overarching and violates a personal consumption choice.”

Rather than enforcing the ban on an “honor system,” CCSG is suggesting that the university create designated areas that would only restrict the use of “regular cigarettes” that could harm others besides the person smoking.

CCSG’s campus leaders will travel to University Park at the beginning of February for a Council Weekend. It’s unclear whether the policy will be a topic of discussion at that meeting, but the University Park Undergraduate Association’s chair of Academic Affairs, Chelsey Wood, said she plans to discuss the statement with CCSG Vice President Synthea Hairston.

You can read the full statement transcribed below.

Beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year, The Pennsylvania State University will launch its ‘hard rollout’ of the campus tobacco-free policy across the University. Hard rollout means that the university will plan on informing incoming students and parents about the policy during new student orientation so as to socialize students into not bringing tobacco on campus. For existing students, the University will inform the population about the policy through various means, but overall it will not be strictly enforced because it will be more like an honor system.

The tobacco-free policy is a ban on all forms of tobacco – so that includes chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes, vapes, and regular cigarettes etc.

The University has framed the tobacco-free policy as a matter of student health. The concerns raised among Commonwealth campus students are that the policy is too broad, and not enforceable. Since the ban includes forms of tobacco that aren’t necessarily as harmful to other students, like chewing tobacco or e-cigarettes, there is a concern that the ban is overarching and violates a personal consumption choice. The other concern is with the policy’s apparent “honor system”, whereby there is no real enforcement or discipline for those who are not adhering to the tobacco-free policy.

Instead, there should be a revision to the tobacco-free policy that would make it much more effective. For one, the policy should be reduced in scope to only apply to traditional cigarettes. Since the other means of consumption are questionable in the harm done to others, their usage should be a protected personal choice. Secondly, the ban should be a restriction rather than a total prohibition. Designated smoking areas would be the most effective way to satisfy all parties. Smokers would have an intentional space on campus where they can smoke, whereas non-smokers would not be negatively impacted by the smoking. It would also provide a clear direction for faculty and staff at the University since an intentional space is easier to enforce rather than a total prohibition. This is also the most inclusive solution to the issue.

In closing, CCSG does not support the tobacco-free policy, in its current form, and will advocate for the changes detailed above.

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About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa is a senior public relations major and the managing editor of Onward State. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Send questions and comments via e-mail ([email protected]) and follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.

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