Cig ban is a waste of time

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

November 8, 2007 Ed Cartoon

Third-year Science councillor Fred Wu has put forth a motion to the University Students’ Council requesting that cigarettes no longer be sold in the University Community Centre’s Mustang Alley.

Wu believes selling cigarettes is contrary to the USC’s mission statement: “To enhance the educational experience and quality of life for all undergraduates at [Western].”

This motion is simply another case of USC ideas and doctrine being ultra politically correct. Let’s face it: Western students are adults perfectly capable of making informed, rational choices.

While public opinion has taken small steps over the past couple decades towards making smoking taboo, it is time to cut smokers a break. Short of blanket-banning cigarettes on campus, we have greatly infringed on the lives of smokers for the sake of public health.

Seeing as pre-existing regulations dictate smokers need to be outside and at least 10 metres away from any campus building, non-smokers are not suffering adverse health conditions on campus. If the USC’s mandate really is to improve the quality of life of undergrads at Western, the freedom to make choices should be part of the equation.

This new motion could just be a case of a new councillor looking to make a controversial statement that will create buzz. There are many more constructive uses of council time; the USC could better enforce the 10-metre rule or perhaps even more usefully, could promote healthier food options for students on campus.

While cigarettes are not a necessity, any student on campus for an extended period of time will need something to eat. By offering healthier choices, the USC would be backing an initiative that benefits everyone on campus. These both seem like better issues to tackle than the presence of cigarettes in Mustang Alley.

There is also the problem of lost revenue to consider from banning smokes in the UCC’s convenience store. First, Mustang Alley sells cigarettes at a marked-up price. Second, many who purchase cigarettes in Mustang Alley would also make supplementary purchases while in the store " hence making it a “convenience” store. Mustang Alley would lose the business of any smoker that would also buy a lighter, a pack of gum, an energy drink or any other product along with the cigarettes. Regardless of Mustang Alley’s profit margin, this reality would at least eat into the store’s revenue base.

If councillors feel guilty about Western’s convenience store offering an unhealthy product, maybe a concession could be made such as selling nicotine gum at a discounted rate, so as to encourage quitting smoking.

Ultimately, because so many regulations have improved the non-smoking public’s air, it’s time to give smokers a little breathing room. There are many worthwhile initiatives the USC could tackle in order to improve the undergrad’s quality of life.

Banning cigarettes from Mustang Alley is not one of them.

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