Nicotine Addiction Outlawed

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Nicotine Addiction Outlawed

“I was concerned that it wasn’t honest representation,” says Senior Arish Mudra Rakshasa
about the incongruency between the wishes of the Earlham community and implementation of

the Smoke-Free Policy

By Liam Ferguson, ’19
Senior Staff Writer
Earlham College has maintained a Smoke-Free and Tobacco-Free Policy since July 1, 2016.
For many, the existence of the policy is meaningless and not worth discussion.
A large portion of the college’s population identifies as non-smokers. The smoking ban has zero
impact on this percentage of the student population (unless exposure to tobacco is a health
concern for a specific individual) and therefore, is regularly dismissed as one of the least urgent
issues on campus.
However, for those members of the Earlham community that have physiological addictions to
tobacco, the Smoke-Free and Tobacco-Free Policy is one of the direst concerns at hand. They
are liable to punishment and monetary fines from the college for such an addiction, which in
many cases, is already the source of a constant struggle in their lives.
The policy that preceded the Smoke-Free and Tobacco-Free Policy designated non-smoking
zones, which primarily consisted of the entrances to dormitories and academic buildings, as well
as, inside college buildings. Years of students breaking this rule, eventually led to a collective
push towards amending the smoking policy in the Fall of 2013.
A survey was sent out and completed by over 450 students, faculty and members of staff during
the Fall semester of that year, in attempts to fully understand the campus’s attitudes towards the
smoking issue. The survey consists of the only extensive piece of research regarding the
Earlham community’s stance on the smoking ban, and the results were often cited during the
process of determining the current no-smoking policy.
Evaluating the features of the current version of the policy, one might assume that the results of
the survey had a clear majority for installing a fully-restrictive smoking policy. In fact, this was
not the case.
The prevailing conversation of the time was to change the smoking policy from having non-
smoking zones to establishing smoking zones. The results of that question were as follows:

The survey also posed the smoke-free concept to the community. The conversation regarding

the smoking policy continued to revolve around amending the non-smoking zones for the next
two years. However, in 2015, the conversation shifted suddenly from looking into how to modify
the policy to how to implement a smoke-free policy.
2017-18 Earlham Student Government President Arish Mudra Rakshasa, currently a senior,
was the first person to notice the incongruence between the wishes of the community and the
conversation surrounding the Smoke-Free and Tobacco-Free Policy.
Arish spent hours revisiting past minutes in the Community Documents about the discussions
around the smoking policy and lobbied to have the policy revisited. He described his campaign
to revisit the conversation to be out of a frustration with how the long process of discussing the
smoking policy was overridden by a quick and sudden push to implement a fully restrictive
“I was concerned that it wasn’t honest representation,” he explained. “I don’t mean to say that
there was an intention for deceit; more of an unwillingness to pursue the full truth.”
Unfortunately, by the time Arish came to this realization, it was too late. The Smoke-Free and
Tobacco-Free Policy had already been approved by the Board of Trustees and left no room to
allocate specific smoking-zones for community members struggling with nicotine addiction.
The final policy states that “smoking and/or tobacco use is prohibited within the boundaries of
College property including all buildings, facilities, indoor and outdoor spaces, and grounds
owned, rented, operated, and/or licensed by the College, parking lots, walkways, sidewalks,
college vehicles, private vehicles parked or operated on College property.”
The wording of the policy ensures that there is not a single place on campus where smoking-
zones can be created. In order to do so, the policy itself would have to be changed, meaning the
initiation of a completely new bureaucratic process, and that new committees would have to be
formed to create a different policy. This policy would then have to be approved by the Board.
The question, then, arises over how this policy was finalized, despite the lack of support from
the greater Earlham community.
There were four main forces that led to the implementation of the Smoke-Free and Tobacco-
Free Policy. First, was a nationwide movement implementing similar policies. In the last few
years, schools, hospitals and workspaces across the country have been implementing tobacco
free policies; Earlham was simply following suit.
Secondly, Earlham was experimenting with new ways to help increase admissions. According to
Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students, Hagi Bradley, many students cited the
Smoke-Free and Tobacco-Free Policy as a reason for admitting into Earlham.
Thirdly, was the Alumni Council voicing strong support towards implementing the policy. They
voiced their concerns about Earlham students and their tobacco usage and urged the college to
become tobacco-free.
It may come as no surprise to those who are familiar with my writing that the final force that
impacted the implementation of the Smoke-Free and Tobacco-Free Policy was the Board of
Trustees. Apparently, a number of board members are cancer survivors and are strongly
against smoking on campus.

While many of the forces are grounded in health considerations, the deceitful and coercive
nature of the implementation of the Smoke-Free and Tobacco-Free Policy is problematic. It fails
to consider the struggles faced by Earlham community members with their addictions. For now,
the institution maintains the same policy for tobacco addiction as it does for possession of a
firearm: it is strictly prohibited.

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