USC agrees on Alley's ciggys plebiscite question

Councillors and president agree student feedback is vital to any decision about cigarette sales in Mustang Alley

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Smoking a cigarette

Jon Purdy

FARMERS IN SIMCOE AND NORTH CAROLINA REJOICE. Yuval Baltson, a fourth-year engineering student, enthusiastically sucks on a cancer stick. A plebiscite question about the sale of cigarettes in Mustang Alley will be added to the USC election ballot.

The end is in sight for a ruling on the sale of cigarettes in Mustang Alley, as the University Students’ Council decided Wednesday night to let students choose yes or no.

A plebiscite question on the matter has been approved by council, which means Western students will vote on the matter during the USC elections next month.

The question chosen by council reads: “Should the USC-operated retail store, Mustang Alley, continue the sale of cigarettes?”

Joe Cariati, chief returning officer for the USC and member of the Elections Committee responsible for creating the question, explained the process.

“[The Committee] wanted to keep the plebiscite as simple and straightforward as possible so students could easily understand and hopefully make a decision.”

Though the plebiscite is non-binding, the outcome of the vote will give direction to a council that has been divided since the issue first appeared.

Some students may recall the last plebiscite from 2004-2005. Students voted by a slim majority to maintain the Thompson Recreation and Athletic Centre student fee. That plebiscite saw 51 per cent of 7,000 students vote in favour of keeping the fee.

Science councillor Fred Wu, who originally proposed Mustang Alley stop selling cigarettes, spoke of the process council went through to get to this point.

“Councillors pride themselves on careful critical thought. In order to go through every angle of the issue, it makes for what may seem like tedious debate but really that’s just the process,” Wu said.

Wu expressed a desire to not be associated with either the yes or no side of the campaign, though he did offer advice to those supporting the “No” campaign.

Some believe the original motion was written to stop people from smoking, Wu said. “That misconception may be the biggest obstacle for the ‘No’ side.”

USC President Tom Stevenson was reserved about the plebiscite.

“I think it’s important we get student feedback,” Stevenson said. “The outcome will obviously affect Mustang Alley, both in terms of student jobs and potential loss of profit that would go into student programming.

“It’s a contentious issue.”

Stevenson urged students to educate themselves on the issue.

The plebiscite provides funding for both “Yes” and “No” sides to campaign during elections period. Students interested in joining either side can contact Amy Bi, communications officer for the USC, or log onto the USC’s elections website before Jan. 17.

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