Nanny State (College Edition)

The University of Georgia is about to implement a campus-wide ban on tobacco products:

At the 31 public colleges and universities that make up the University System of Georgia, smoking will be forbidden. The use of chewing tobacco could lead to a penalty. And even products that “simulate the use of tobacco,” including e-cigarettes, are scheduled for banishment.

Although I remember my days of being an outraged smoker at Earlham which severely limited places where we were allowed to smoke, being on the other side now, I have no problem with imposing as many restrictions on smoking as possible. Our campus currently has a ban on smokers within 35 feet of any building entrances, but try enforcing that in February. The result is that the stairwell in our building is typically filled with second-hand smoke from the smokers huddled around the outside door. We are thinking about making Saint Mikes non-smoking as well, and I will enjoy my smoke free running if this ever happens.

However, I can’t see any justification for extending the ban to e-cigarettes and other nicotine products. The only reason to prohibit behavior is if it does harm to other people. Banning any behavior that is unhealthy starts us down a very slippery and treacherous slope. Will we also ban sodas? What about saturated fats? High carb foods? Negative thoughts?

Colleges naturally feel protective towards their students and want to protect them as much as possible, but sometimes protecting them means allowing them to make bad choices and live with the consequences.

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