General Faculty Finalizes Tobacco Ban


Nick Farfan

College junior Nick Canavan lights a cigarette. The College finalized the smoking ban last December, and the use of tobacco products on campus will be prohibited starting in the fall of 2016.

Louis Krauss, News Editor

The tobacco ban was finalized by the General Faculty during a meeting last December, according to Student Senate. This was the last step in a several-year push to ban the use of all tobacco products on College property, starting in 2016.

According to Senate Liaison and College third-year Machmud Makhmudov, the College plans to create an implementation committee that will hammer out a number of specifics for the ban, including enforcement and programs for helping student smokers quit before the ban goes into effect.

“I think at this point, we’ve moved past getting the ban itself to, ‘OK, now this is happening, let’s make sure we’re doing it correctly,’ which is why the implementation group is so important,” Makhmudov said.

According to Makhmudov, the implementation committee will work to make cessation products available to smokers.

Though Safety and Security may have to actively enforce the ban at first, Makhmudov hopes that eventually campus culture will change so people simply aren’t smoking.

“I think everyone understands the purpose is not to be punitive; it’s to change the culture on campus so eventually [we’re] not policing each other,” Makhmudov said.

In the past year a number of schools, including Kenyon College, have adopted tobacco-free policies; College President Marvin Krislov feels Oberlin needs to shift with the national trend.

“We need to understand the national context in that most campuses are going to be smoke-free in the next year or two, I think,” said Krislov. “There are obviously a lot of different concerns, and the health concern is obviously the primary one, but you also have to sort of look at the context, and I do think there are some disandvantages to Oberlin being seen as outside what is a norm in our society. Smoking is considered something that is not safe for people.”

Makhmudov said joining this trend may change smoking culture on campus but won’t disrupt the overall College atmosphere.

“I think we do a lot of quirky things outside of smoking. To say that we’re inextricably tied to smoking on campus, that it’s going to cause some kind of revolution, I don’t think that will happen,” Makhmudov said. “I know it’s a big change, but it’s not a radical transformation.”

College second-year and Senate member Jordan Ecker disagrees, saying that he feels the ban goes against the spirit of Oberlin.

He believes the ban would not have made it past this final stage if more students had voiced their concerns to Senate and the Administration.

“Honestly, if one in five students had voiced their skepticism of the ban last semester and sent an email to Senate or administration, this ban wouldn’t have passed,” Ecker said. “I wasn’t as active in Senate last year, but my impression was there was very little organization against the ban and that our opposition just got overrun because the pro-ban people were much more organized.”

Ecker added that, aside from the referendum last year, the other polls taken on Fearless and Loathing and Wilder Voice show that the majority of students are against the ban. The Review also conducted an online poll from Dec. 4, 2013 until March 8, 2014, garnering more than 2,500 responses, 66 percent of which were against the ban, while only 29 percent were in favor of the ban. 
Ecker hopes these opponents will organize and weaken the power of the ban.

“Students need to agitate the people skeptical [of] the ban to get them on the implementation committee. Senate needs to place people skeptical about the ban, police power and the idea that this is liberalism,” Ecker said. “If we do that, I’m fairly confident that we’ll be able to take the fangs out of this.”

However, Krislov has a very different view of student opinion on the ban. He said the ban was a student-led initiative and that, to his knowledge, the student body has largely been supportive of the new policy.

“The student senators were overwhelmingly in favor of it,” said Krislov. “I have not heard anything negative about it, other than some comments expressed to General Faculty by one, maybe two, student senators. I think many of the concerns fall into the category of implementation concerns. … We will try to take in those concerns.”

The opinions of smokers on campus are far from uniform. College second-year Owen Kleiman said he isn’t against the ban since it could possibly solve some of the health issues associated with smoking.

“I smoke tobacco every now and then. I used to be against the ban, but I’ve been reading up about other universities and the good effect it’s had,” Kleiman said. “I used to be against it, but I think young people like us shouldn’t be smoking.”