A recent article in the Clarion Ledger by Elizabeth Crisp (November 14, 2010) entitled “Campuses Curbing Tobacco Products” really made me think. Should Mississippi State join the likes of Delta State University – and hundreds of others – to ban tobacco use on campus? The Commissioner of Higher Education in Mississippi, Hank Bounds, certainly thinks so. He’s quoted as saying, “I would like to see all of our campuses move in that direction.” As a result of a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Mississippi Health Department has begun a “media blitz to discourage smoking and promote a statewide ban in public places.” Many think Mississippi State should jump on the bandwagon.
My first thought was –why not? We all know how horrible smoking is for a person – I hear that message daily. And what about those poor people who choose not to smoke, but get exposed to second hand smoke from others? Shouldn’t there be a law to protect their health? I definitely do not want my nine-month old son to be breathing smoke. If we just outlawed smoking on campus, life would be that much easier and the air that much cleaner – for everyone.
But then I thought, who am I to be telling someone else where, when, and what they can do with their body? I certainly don’t want anyone telling me what I can and cannot do with my body. Although a foolish one, smoking is an individual choice. If we begin telling individuals what they can do with their bodies, where would it stop? It is a dangerous road for sure.
So, what is the answer? I propose a compromise – Mississippi State should designate smoking areas (similar to what is working at Ole Miss) in the different areas of campus. This gives people who wish to smoke a place to partake. It gives those of us who wish to avoid it a way to do so. In essence, it protects both individual choice and community health.