Tobacco Free Campus Vote
Allison Brueggen

Starting on Friday, UWSP students can vote to make our campus home tobacco-free – yet many or even most have no idea that we have this opportunity. We need to grab it.

The Student Government Association’s March 15-21 e-mail referendum presents students with four options for UWSP: tobacco-free, smoke-free, des­ignated smoking areas, or no change. Tobacco-free is the only good option, and here are the top 10 reasons why:

• Tobacco kills. There’s no question about this. Not only users; non-users can also be killed (46,000 from secondhand smoke annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control).

• Tobacco is expensive for everyone. We all pay for clean­ing up spit in the fountains or butts on the ground. Even more costly are the insurance rates and medical costs that get spread around to all, regardless of whether we use tobacco. See point No. 1.

• When you vote tobacco-free, you’re not taking away any­one’s right to use tobacco; users can go elsewhere. You’re sim­ply giving back a basic right to everyone else, starting with the air we breathe.

• You’ll be helping those who do use tobacco. Tobacco restrictions encourage users to quit. Study after study supports this idea.

• Career development. Many out-of-state organizations have clear policies against hiring tobacco users; help your friends get a job by helping them quit.

• Only about 10 to 12 per­cent of people on campus smoke. That’s roughly the same percent­age of people who suffer from asthma and are at risk of smoke-induced attacks – some of which can literally kill. Are you willing to support the “right” to use tobacco over the right to live in a healthy environment?

• A tobacco-free policy is clear. Smokers routinely ignore state law requiring a 25-foot dis­tance from all building entrances, risking the health of everyone – students, faculty, and staff – who walks in a door. Many campus hall residents can’t even open their windows in warm weather for this reason.

• Empowerment. Tobacco companies spend big bucks to target young people, using mar­keting gimmicks to hook us on their products. When we have kids, they’ll try to hook them, too.

• Chancellor Bernie Patterson (whose leadership cab­inet has written a letter in sup­port of a tobacco-free policy) has said his administration cannot pay for shelters in designated smoking areas. In addition, an SGA ad hoc committee voted against including the option of designated smoking areas for cost reasons, but the SGA let a few of its members convince the entire body to ignore that finding and add this option back in.

• If we don’t vote tobacco-free, the issue will come back – despite the SGA’s proposed post-referendum ban on SGA discussion of the issue until the end of the 2015-16 school year. Doesn’t it make you wonder why the group would ban talk, but not tobacco? News flash for our elected representatives: you can’t make people stop speaking up about the right thing to do.

More than 60 campuses across Wisconsin are already tobacco-free, and almost 800 nationwide. It’s time for us to catch up. Vote tobacco-free now.

Allison Brueggen, a senior pre-physical therapy major, is a mem­ber of the Tobacco-Free Campus Initiative. The group is on Facebook at SparkUwStevensPoint and on WordPress at http://uwspstillsmok­