To suggest smoking is like uranium is absurd

By Brandon Wasicsko FGCU Economics alumnus,
2011 In “Lights out: faculty senate proposes smoking ban on campus,” which appeared on these pages on Nov. 6, 2013, professor Martha Rosenthal is quoted as saying, “Personal freedoms are important. But we don’t allow uranium on campus … we ban things because they are dangerous.”
This is an intellectually dishonest moral equivalency fallacy. As a professor dedicated to the education of hundreds of students each year, Rosenthal should be held to a higher standard. I hope she would not accept such sloppiness from her own students.
Note that the proposed ban includes smokeless tobacco, which has no secondhand effects. Is that the moral equivalent of uranium? Did we invade Iraq because of the looming threat of Saddam’s tobacco arsenal? Nonsense.
The question of the negative health effects of smoking is a serious one that ought to be subject to level-headed discourse, but by treating it with such hyperbolic disregard, Rosenthal detracts from that seriousness. Relocating smoking areas away from pedestrian pathways is a simple and effective solution that can be implemented tomorrow.
What this proposed ban amounts to is pure paternalism: Rosenthal and the Faculty Senate know better what’s right for you than you do. And they don’t want to educate you about the costs and benefits of using tobacco; they want to stop you from doing it whether you choose to or not. Why not be consistent and also ban vending machines and mandate weekly exercise? After all, doing so might “save some lives.”
I hope that level heads will prevail and that, in what should be a rigorous academic environment, an honest discussion can be had.