If you ever see clouds of steam rising from the sidewalk on a rainy day, don’t worry; that’s just the humidity. But if you see similar plumes of smoke emanating from a person’s mouth here on campus, you have a right to be concerned.
Sixteen months after the University of Miami enacted the smoke-free policy, it is common to see people lighting up, sometimes next to no-smoking signs.
Such displays of disobedience disrespect the administration that implemented the policy as well the students, faculty and staff forced to inhale noxious fumes where they should be guaranteed clean air. Yet the steps toward improving the ban’s effectiveness are shrouded in fog themselves.
The smoke-free campus policy places the burden of enforcement on students, faculty and staff, encouraging them to “directly and politely inform those unaware of the policy or remind those in disregard of it.”
Of course, it wouldn’t hurt for smokers to be reminded of the resources that exist to help them kick their habit, and Canes, after all, should care for Canes. However, case-by-case personal intervention is not enough to suppress disregard for the rules.
If the bystander effect demonstrates the relative inability of individuals in a crowd to act toward preventing a crime, how likely is a person to challenge a stranger about his illicit cigarette? Hesitation to appear rude, officious, or to interfere in someone else’s life choices, even if those choices inconvenience others, impels many to avoid face-to-face confrontations with transgressors.
Their overtures would likely prove ineffective anyway. While the attention drawn to his indiscretion may embarrass a smoker into snuffing out his cigarette, there is little to prevent him from lighting up as soon as the person issuing the reproach turns the corner.
The problem does not ultimately lie in lack of awareness about the ban. “Breathe Freely” signs posted all across campus make it difficult to persist under the illusion that smoking is permissible. More likely, those who choose to break this rule do so because they have never been made aware of any penalties that violation of this ban may incur.
Although smokers should be informed about dangers to their health, more immediate repercussions, such as those administered by law enforcement, would prove more compelling motivators for smokers to abstain.
But smokers on campus are not just flagrant rule-breakers – they are also victims of an addictive habit. A crackdown by law enforcement risks targeting the symptom and ignoring the disease.
In the end, neither gentle chastisement by individuals nor aggressive compulsion by police will suffice to eliminate these violations. It will take a whole barrage of extinguishers to stifle the smoke.
Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.