To begin, we would like to say that we denounce any notions that we find student tobacco users repulsive or undesirable, as we respect every student at Mount Holyoke — but we cannot condone addictions that negatively impact the health and wellbeing of other students. From the beginning of our advocacy in the fall semester, people have made assumptions about the work we are doing, and we want to set the record straight. Having both experienced our loved ones suffer and die due to tobacco addition, this issue is close to our hearts, and one we take very seriously.
Arriving at Mount Holyoke this fall, we were surprised to see just how many people smoked on campus. Everyone has experienced the cloud of smoke which monopolizes the tables in front of the library, making it uncomfortable and unhealthy to study outside on a nice fall day. We expected the Mount Holyoke campus to be a space where all students can remain healthy and maintain control over their own bodily sovereignty. The current policy, which allows students to smoke 20 feet from campus buildings, is usually not obeyed by students, resulting in discomfort and potential health repercussions for non-smokers. As prospective students, we expected the College to place the mental and physical health of students above all else; after arriving on campus we were disheartened to see differently. Considering that 99 percent of adult smokers tried smoking by age 26, the relaxed tobacco-use policies only encourage more young people to take up smoking and continue it into their adult lives. By allowing tobacco use on campus, the College endorses an extremely unhealthy and addictive substance to affect the lives of not only smokers, but all students and staff on campus.
Our campaign is advocating for a 100 percent tobacco-free campus. Tobacco use should not be tacitly endorsed by Mount Holyoke College through its current lax policy and enforcement. The campus must be made 100 percent tobacco free if we seek to encourage a healthy lifestyle of all students during their time in college and beyond. Considering the deadly effects of tobacco use in the short and long term, the College should use its resources to aid student and staff education regarding the effects. The health center should be an optional resource for smokers in our community if they decide to quit tobacco use.
In the short time we have been advocating for this idea, many misconceptions have come up about the goals we strive for. We do not seek for campus police to be used to enforce a new tobacco policy. We are not solely concerned with the littering of cigarette butts on campus. While concerning, we are more worried about the health of students. We are not in any way looking to attack marginalized communities; however, the tobacco industry targets people of color, people with mental illnesses and other marginalized groups. We understand how severe of an addiction tobacco is and recognize the difficulty of ending tobacco use. As this so far has been a completely student-led campaign, the administration has had no impact on the goals of our advocacy.
We strive for a campus where everyone feels comfortable, we do not seek to alienate any groups. We want a college which supports the current and future health of students, not one which tolerates unhealthy addictions that affect all students. We want a college where tobacco use is seen as an unhealthy addiction, not as an easy stress-coping mechanism. Most of us know and love someone who uses tobacco, or other substances in unhealthy ways, whether they be family or friends. However, just because you love someone, does not mean you need to love their addiction.
- Madeleine Desfosses’21 & Lili Paxton ’21