Council votes students should decide

USC votes for Mustang Alley cigarette plebiscite question

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

The ongoing debate over cigarette sales in Mustang Alley has survived another University Students’ Council meeting.

At a USC meeting Wednesday night, a motion proposed by science councillor Fred Wu was discussed at great length.

The motion stated “Mustang Alley shall discontinue the sale of cigarettes after depleting its current cigarette inventory.”

Ultimately, council deemed it appropriate to leave the decision up to students.

The USC voted to send the issue to the Elections Committee to develop a plebiscite question, which will be returned to the council for approval.

If passed, it would then be given to the general student population as a non-binding poll.

Wu cited a moral and social incentive to stop the USC from profiting from the tobacco industry, adding no foreseeable backlash could be seen from his research based on the lack of student reaction to his initial motion.

Wu explained the two weeks since his last motion gave him the time to investigate the financial implications. He found that just under 50 per cent of Mustang Alley’s gross profit " $44,000 of $90,000 " is derived from tobacco sales.

Wu felt the profits should not factor heavily into the decision.

Music councillor Heather Adamo disagreed, arguing the loss of profit would negatively affect the many students employed by Mustang Alley.

Wu said these arguments should be considered, but management should worry about any possible changes to the operations of the business.

Various council members brought up additional finance issues.

David Singh, VP-finance for the USC, explained Wu’s research did not include information about residual sales " other products purchased in the same sale as tobacco.

“There isn’t a point in running a convenience store that doesn’t make money,” Singh said.

Many participants supported the motion, such as health science councillor James East. He said the USC should be supporting a healthy lifestyle. Meanwhile, USC VP-university affairs David Simmonds said, “I don’t believe in prohibition.”

Science councillor Geoff Zeni argued for the motion: “The sale of handguns in the University Community Centre would lead to a lot of deaths, and yet [the USC] is fighting for the sale of cigarettes, which also cause a lot of deaths.”

Tom Stevenson, president of the USC, spoke against the motion. “[The USC] is not the moral compass for the student.”

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