Purposeless policy: New smoking regulations are too hard to enforce

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September 3, 2012

11:01 PM

A policy recently implemented by the College of William and Mary aims to make the air on the steps of James Blair and Tyler Halls a little fresher this year. It prohibits people from smoking within 25 feet of any campus building and was created to comply with a 2006 state executive order. We understand the decision’s importance as a means of better accommodating the health and safety of College students, faculty, and staff. That said, we are concerned by the plan’s lack of detail — after all, the College had six years to come up with a plan to enforce the executive order, and this plan appears a little basic.

Our primary question is: What does the College hope to accomplish with this policy? We know the College has to introduce the policy in order to comply with the state, but we hope something significant will come of it. We believe that the most productive outcomes from the policy should arrive through adherence to the Honor Code and respect for all members of the campus community. We fear that if the College invests too many of its resources in enforcing this policy through other means, the result will only be an ineffective squandering of funds.

The plan is not enforceable because there is no practical way to report violations of the policy. Currently, there are no specific plans for policing campus buildings to ensure the policy is upheld other than through individual reports filed by members of the campus community. This system does not seem reliable because the only evidence is one individual’s word against the word of another. The only way to enforce the policy consistently would require surveillance of campus buildings, which would be a waste of funds. The repercussions for violating this policy vary depending on circumstances and can range from a warning to community service or loss of housing. While consequences may seem necessary to enforce this policy, the meetings to assign the repercussions seem to be more of a hassle than the act warrants. Especially considering the unreliable nature of the policing for this policy, the necessary hearings for violations seem to be problematic.

While we understand the need to implement this policy on our campus, we hope the College does not follow in the footsteps of other state schools who have implemented non-smoking policies that prove excessively harsh to smokers. Virginia Tech banned smoking on campus completely. We hope this sort of policy never occurs at the College. A smoke-free campus is subject to each of the enforceability problems that plague alcohol-free campuses. In addition to being ineffective, a campus-wide ban on smoking would divide the student body and would only spawn anger.

We hope the College’s Honor Code, primarily, will enforce the policy. Members of the College community who smoke should be willing to follow the new restrictions to make the campus accommodating to all students. In return, we hope the College will not waste any of its limited funds attempting to enforce a policy that is nearly impossible to control.

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