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Tobacco-free push could be beginning of restriction flood

Justine Boggs / Lantern photographer

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In a move worthy of a crafty politician, Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee released news about his controversial tobacco-free campus proposal in an email the Friday before spring break.
Normally, politicians do this to minimize the number of people who see a given news item and hopefully have it escape the notice of both the media and the general population.
In this case, Gee’s March 8 news dump failed because people in the media did notice.
The email stated that the next “important steps” were to gather feedback about the ban.
If he truly wanted student input on his proposal, Gee would not have sent it out one of the days of the semester that it would attract the least notice.
The proposed ban’s goal is to eliminate all tobacco consumption by everyone on campus, and it is intended to go into effect in August.
Gee’s email concluded by saying, “Know that your health is at the heart of this initiative. It is our intent to become the healthiest campus in the nation.”
Let me be clear; this health push will not stop with tobacco.
If Gee is serious about being the healthiest campus in the nation, he will be forced to go beyond a mere tobacco ban because there are a number of colleges that already have a similar policies in place. Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, is smoke free and the University of Toledo bans all tobacco but allows its use in designated areas. About 700 colleges across the country are smoke or tobacco free.
So what will be banned next? It could be a couple different items.
Take a look at New York City. It began with a smoking ban. Then Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to ban sugary drinks over 16 ounces, and he has recently turned his attention to eliminating the harmful effects that headphones can have on hearing.
Since OSU has a contract with Coca-Cola worth more than $33 million, I hope you’re not too attached to those earbuds.
The idea that health is Gee’s primary concern is laughable.
Reducing the tobacco consumption of everyone on campus will save OSU money on their health insurance premiums, but you won’t find that piece of information in Gee’s email.
In the end, this university and Gee care for your health as long as it helps them save money and gains them public praise from government organizations.
Does the administration’s hypocrisy know no bounds? It’s OK for students to consume something that’s not good for them as long as the university can make money from it.
However, if student choice has the potential to cost them money, then your individual rights are expendable.
OSU sells alcohol, sugary drinks, junk food, fast food, ear buds and coffee on campus. All of those things can have negative effects on your health. It seems a strange double standard to only target tobacco, doesn’t it?

However, do you really expect the university to crusade against items it profits from even if they are proven to be harmful?

I have spent most of my college journalism career attempting to avoid political controversy because of its potential to impact my future career.
That is over.
I will no longer sit silently while people in positions of authority attempt to undermine the rights of individuals.
Gee, I do not care that your email said, “the majority of the feedback supported a tobacco free campus,” because simple majorities are not how this country is supposed to be governed.
We do not live in a direct democracy.
We live in a representative republic for the express reason of protecting the rights of minorities from the oppression of a tyrannical majority.
Perhaps you should take a refresher course on American government from this fine institution over which you preside.
Better yet, wait until after the tobacco ban goes into effect and take that class from a professor who smokes a pack or two a day. This will allow you to fully feel some of the unintended consequences of your initiative.
With all due respect, Mr. President, I don’t give a damn what you feel is in the best interests of my health.
It is definitely outside of the scope of your authority to infringe upon my personal rights, and it is certainly none of your business what I do to my body.
This policy is being pursued at the urging of several government organizations including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Ohio Board of Regents and the State of Ohio Healthy Ohio Program.
I have zero respect for any unelected official from a governmental organization or even from this university, which I so dearly love, that has the gall to tell me what I can or can’t do to my body.
I smoke very rarely, and I intend to graduate before this ban goes into effect, so its impact on me will be nonexistent.
However, I refuse to sit on the sidelines while appointed bureaucrats dictate away the personal rights of U.S. citizens. That is an intolerable tyranny that must not go unanswered.
Most students might not care about a tobacco-free campus, but answer this question: If this administration is allowed to remove the rights of one group, or even one individual, which one of you will it come after next?

We must stand together to protect the rights of all members of the OSU community, because as Benjamin Franklin so famously said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
 

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