OPINION | Tulane’s failing anti-smoke policy

Thamidul Alam, Staff Writer

Hailie Goldthorpe

Effective August 1, 2014, Tulane University campuses declared themselves 100% tobacco and smoke-free. Any student that attends Tulane is aware that this declaration is an idealization that does little to exempt the university from the worsening problem of young-adult nicotine use. Wherever one goes, they can always catch a glimpse of someone secretly covering their mouth with their sleeve while a suspicious bright light goes off.

While the policy was made with an honest intention, many factors undermine its effectiveness. First, many students find ways to purchase nicotine products, similarly to how students purchase alcohol. 

The only limitation that stops college-age students from buying a pack of Juul pods, disposable vapes or cigarettes from local stores is the quality of the fake identification. Even if the ID is obviously fake, a simple tip to the store clerk has the potential to stop any further questions. 

Businesses within such a close proximity to Tulane likely rely, at least in part, on their college customers and may be more lenient with identification. A smoke-free campus policy can hardly be enforced as long as the supply of smoking devices remains high.

Another factor that limits the effectiveness of the policy is the general attitude of Tulane students towards tobacco products, specifically vapes. We can’t stop using them.

A 2019 study from the University of Michigan found that the national average of vape use among undergraduates increased to 22%, from 6% in 2017. 

If we apply the Michigan study to Tulane’s campus, it could be assumed that almost a quarter of Tulane students use some form of nicotine. Although we cannot be sure of this, it is not uncommon to see clouds of vape or cigarette smoke line Freret Street and other areas around campus. It is obvious that the policy remains ineffective. 

While most students know that there is a general anti-smoking sentiment on campus, they also know that it is rarely enforced. The university claims that people observed smoking will be “reminded in a professional and courteous manner of the university policy.” Additionally, anybody observed to be smoking within campus or on campus property can be issued a fine of up to $25 by the Tulane University Police Department. 

These rules can never be a realistic deterrent if their lack of enforcement perpetuates the general stereotype of college students using nicotine and tobacco products. 

Measures like these only go as far as to punish people addicted to nicotine rather than creating measures to help them quit. Campus smoking policies effectively shame nicotine users, framing them as selfishly damaging their own health. Rather, the university should focus more on tobacco cessation programs. 

There likely exists a population of Tulane students, like other undergraduates in the U.S., who use nicotine but would like to quit. Tulane’s smoke-free campus policy effectively tells its undergraduate class that the university cares only so far as they are legally required to. 

If you or anyone you know needs help with quitting the use of tobacco, please refer to campus health’s information on tobacco cessation.

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