Plebiscite not needed

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

February 20, 2008 Ed Cartoon

Yesterday a group called “’Mo Smokin’” protested on Concrete Beach against the Mustang Alley cigarette sales plebiscite question that is part of the University Students’ Council presidential election.

The group hoped to draw attention to the plebiscite question and, in particular, to the Yes (sell cigarettes) campaign.

Some members of both the Yes and No (do not sell cigarettes) campaigns have complained the plebiscite has not received enough promotion.

Without promotion, some worry students will be unable to make an educated decision on the plebiscite question.

It could be argued the issue of cigarette sales in Mustang Alley, an USC-operated business, is straightforward, which raises the question: is a plebiscite necessary?

It is a business issue. Just under 50 per cent of Mustang Alley’s profits come from tobacco sales " $44,000 of $90,000. This does not include residual sales " other products purchased by smokers.

There is some concern about what impact a ban on tobacco sales would have on student employment at Mustang Alley.

It is also a moral issue; whether the USC should make a profit on a legal, but addictive and unhealthy product.

Councillors believed it was an important enough issue to vote for a plebiscite question. Furthermore, current USC President Tom Stevenson believes the USC should not be a moral compass for students " students should decide.

Students, however, do not appear concerned about the issue. No one volunteered to spearhead the Yes and No campaigns. There are a few posters " that were posted late in the campaign period " and a couple newspaper advertisements on the issue, but little to no discussion of it.

While it is always beneficial to get student input on decisions affecting students, this issue could have been settled in council.

We elect the council to make decisions on these types of issues and, although it does not always make the right choice, that is its purpose.

This plebiscite opens the door to plebiscites on other moral issues. Should there be a plebiscite for all difficult issues that lack clear consensus?

There are more salient moral issues on campus worth council’s time: the USC’s stance on Canadian Blood Services’ MSM policy for example.

Plebiscites should be reserved for the most important USC issues. The plebiscite on the Thompson Recreation and Athletic Centre affected student fees and thus made sense.

Cigarette sales in Mustang Alley, however, is a free choice issue; students can decide for themselves whether or not to smoke and the availability of cigarettes in the UCC does not affect that choice.

Share this article on:

Facebook | DiggDigg |

Copyright © 2008 The Gazette