You won’t find tobacco for sale on the Tufts, Williams, Bowdoin, or Amherst campuses–presenting, perhaps, the slightest inconvenience in a bustling college town. Hamilton students must make a trek down the hill into their sleepy village when they want a puff. Yet, at Conn, you can buy cigarettes in the college’s bookstore. At Trinity, they sell them in a student-run coffee shop–at the jacked up price of $10 a pack.
The prevailing logic seems to be the same in all these cases–smokers are going to smoke. A prohibition on tobacco sales thus amounts to a symbolic gesture.
And yet, Nicole Updegrove ’14–a member of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA)–is asking whether that symbolic gesture just might be worth-it. She compares ending tobacco sales on college property with fossil fuel divestment, or Wesleyan’s ban on bottled water–another way to make sure that the school is walking the walk when it comes to student health. If adopted, the only location affected would be an independent business which leases their building from the college.
Some students question whether this symbolic gesture is worth the ( speculated) loss in revenue for this small local business, or whether it comprises an overreach by the college into the legal lifestyle of its students. The debate has taken root in a 51-comment thread (that this blogger declined to read) beneath sophomore Charlie Smith’ s counterpoint to Updegrove’s proposal.
Smith writes, “To some students the stress relief and social benefits of smoking may be far more important than living until they’re 90, and so they decide to continue smoking. If you believe in diversity, then that’s a choice you should be willing to accept.”
Wesleying also sought the opinion of Wes social media anon @weird_vibes who Tweeted back that “‘saving the earth’ seems like a less annoying cause than ‘saving ppl’s lungs’”.
So far the most convincing statistic in Updegrove’s hypothetical trove of smoking statistics is this one: “ five percent of Wesleyan freshmen start smoking after the first six weeks [on campus]“–approximately 35 students.
One would be hard pressed to find a tobacco addict at Wes with resounding enthusiasm toward their addiction, and yet when presented with a microcosm of ‘live free and die early’, a significant portion of the student population says “don’t mind if I do.”