I had just finished early registration for Spring classes last November, and finally feeling like I might actually belong at Vol State. That’s when the college announced a new policy that felt like a hostile act against me, and I almost changed my mind. The new No Smoking ANYWHERE on campus policy (okay, fine, I’ll smoke in my car. No? Not even in my own car??) inspired several smokers and vapers to post their annoyance on the Vol State blog, but it also brought out a different kind of reaction as a few fellow students posted things like “About time!” and “I hope you find a new school!”
My three-hour History class was buzzing with the news and, during the break that first day, several gathered to discuss. One guy sat on the rails of the steps and vaped defiantly, though he usually walked away to do so. “It’s not even smoke!” he fumed. Most students said that they would smoke anyway. Many of them considered switching colleges.
So as the new semester began I set out to find out if anyone was still smoking on campus, and to hear what they thought of the policy.
One thing of note –every single person I talked to who was against the new policy insisted on remaining anonymous. Those who supported the ban happily provided their names. To me, that’s more significant than anything they said.
“I think it’s good,” said student Lexus Williams of the ban. “Smoking is bad for you.”
“I don’t smoke, but my friends do,” said one student. “I have to look out for my guys,” he explained.
Would his friends still smoke on campus?
“Definitely,” he answered with a laugh. “We have a saying. ‘No cop, no stop.’”
Another student who was smoking in his car hadn’t heard about the smoking ban. “Oh well, that’s fine. I don’t mind coming out to my car.”
I informed him that was also against the new policy.
“That’s ridiculous,” he said, more than once.
“It’s discrimination,” said another student. “They’re punishing us.”
While some students I talked to expressed strong support over the policy, many non-smokers were more ambivalent.
“I’m good with it [the new policy]” said Chad Allen. “The whole 'no smoking in your car' is a little extreme. That’s your private property.”
While Vol State says it welcomes the debate and encourages free speech on its campus, the school also says that they’re not going to change the policy. “While your car may be private property, it is located directly on campus property while in the parking lot.” said Tami Wallace, Director of Public Relations. “On the website www.volstate.edu/tobaccofree, resources are listed to help students and staff stop using tobacco.”
Gaynell Buffinet Payne