Response to “Anti-tobacco ban infringes on individual liberties”

An assistant professor at the College of Public Health offers her support for Temple University’s tobacco-free campus policy.

On Nov. 12, an article was published in The Temple News for which I had been interviewed by two people, one of whom authored the article. I do not remember being told that the journalist was going to write about individual liberties, though I was asked if I thought the tobacco-free campus policy was an infringement on them. I do not.

After reading the published article, I felt compelled to follow up with a response that would better capture my views.

I do support 100 percent tobacco free college campuses and am proud that Temple has joined the over 2,000 campuses in the United States that are 100 percent tobacco free.

Tobacco-free campuses do not violate students’ individual liberties because first, a property owner has the legal right to restrict activities on said property; second, no one is forbidding a person from smoking – only from smoking while on this property; and third, the age to purchase tobacco may be higher than the age of most students.Recently, the Pennsylvania House and Senate passed legislation to raise the tobacco purchase age to 21, so banning tobacco use on a campus where 50 percent of students are under 21 years of age makes sense.

More importantly, tobacco bans make sense for individual and population health. Tobacco use, especially cigarettes, smokeless products and vapes, are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Most of these deaths are attributed to first and secondhand cigarette smoke, though deaths related to some types of vaping have occurred this year.

People start smoking because they see it — people continue to smoke because nicotine, found in all tobacco products, is an addictive psychoactive drug. The critical period for addiction (i.e., the time that makes addiction more likely to occur) is drug exposure before age 25. To have students who most likely did not see cigarette smoking in their high schools come to a campus that allows smoking would create a norm that could lead to addiction and a substantial reduction in quality life years.

But my concern isn’t only for those who would start to smoke, it’s also for current cigarette or e-cig users because the harder it is to smoke or vape, the easier it is to quit. Seeing other people smoking/vaping is a trigger or cue to use. Most adults I have met wish they could quit and support policies that prohibit smoking in public.

Indeed, Temple University enacting a tobacco free campus policy was a responsible, health-promoting action that can prevent smoking initiation and instigate smoking cessation. If you are interested in quitting smoking click here to learn about resources to help.

Deirdre Dingman is an assistant professor in the department of social and behavioral sciences at the College of Public Health.

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