To whom it may concern:
I read today that Duke announced a new policy of banning the use of all tobacco products on campus as of July 2020. When I started as a Duke freshman 20 years ago, students routinely would smoke in the dorms. This is quite the change. Obviously, we all know about the health dangers of smoking and tobacco use, but curtailing legal behavior by consenting adults appears to be the Duke administration nanny state gone out of control. A big part of college is about experimentation and coming into your own as an adult. The university’s role should be to counsel and advise students on making the best choices, which would include education about the risks of tobacco use and supporting cessation programs, but an outright ban is just the heavy-handed approach that the university shouldn’t be taking, not to mention being impossible to enforce.
Smoking outside in the fresh air poses no harm to others, and it isn’t the university’s role to prevent students from engaging in legal behavior even when behavior isn’t viewed as being in the students’ best interest. The university still accepts rent from McDonald's, which serves food that clogs students’ arteries and contributes to obesity, a public health epidemic. Is that so different? What’s next…banning McDonald's, banning wearing UNC gear on campus or banning students from displaying banners supporting a particular political candidate on campus?
I loved my Duke experience and am a passionate supporter of our great university. However, this decision by the Duke administration is terribly misguided, despite the good intentions behind it.
Scott Finkelstein (T'03)
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