Free cigarettes…sort of.

Handing out Cigarettes

Should government decide what legal substances we put in out body?

The obvious answer is no, and that’s why I and the rest of the Young Americans for Liberty at The University of Toledo told our university to butt out! We recently held a second protest to fight ridiculous campus wide regulation. However, instead of fighting just a smoking ban, now we are fighting a whole tobacco ban!

The story began last semester when we first handed out candy to protest the original smoking ban. The protest caused a bit of a stir and student government went to vote on the legislation for a full ban. Before they voted, I was able to make a speech and we convinced a mainly liberal-leaning student government to defeat the proposal by one vote, a 12 to 11 ruling! We were ecstatic and thought the fight was over. 

However, our student body president took a play from Obama’s book and skipped student government and went to the faculty senate to pass the law without the input of the student legislators. Also, this time, not only was it smoked tobacco but all tobacco that was to be banned. The president claimed to be doing the student’s will because of the results of a poll taken on very short notice so we wouldn’t have time to campaign.

But we are fighting back. In protest of the tobacco ban we choose to hand out free cigarettes* and collect petitions against the ban. 

Free Cigarettes

We put the asterisk so everyone knew they were not really cigarettes but we got the attention we wished for.The cigarettes were obviously not cigs but notes rolled up to look like such. Once rolled the notes were taped at the end to look like filters and to keep them together. The notes read:

Cigarette Note

I expected a mixed reception to our protest, but I would say a majority of people agreed with us even with a table completely contrary our views right next to us. Even people who didn’t smoke, like most of us, refused the ban on a moral ground of not wishing to tell people what to do. 

Media attention was excellent thanks to press releases we sent out a week in advance and the day of. Every major local news television station was present including 13ABC, WTOL11, Fox and WNWO. Here is a link of the WTOL11 video.

Press attention was huge as well. It started off with a piece I wrote for the school paper explaining our reasoning for the protest and grew to include two articles from the regional paper, the Toledo Blade. One article was even on the front of the second page above the fold and the article our college paper wrote was on the front page.  (though I must say the title is completely wrong. It said the ban is gaining traction which is anything but true).

The final outside press we got was a radio interview with local conservative/libertarian host Fred Lefebvre. 

Though I did not see all of it I got a few calls from friends telling me they say I and the club on the TV, radio and in the paper. All the exposure also helped us get a message of liberty out big time and is starting a real discussion of liberty on the campus which we will stay a part of.

Our final final bit of press is something we made ourselves. When we turned in the petitions we turned in a little over 150 in total and so others could see we filmed it and put it on YouTube.

Our event went great but it will be even better when we defeat the tobacco ban, which I personally plan to do with a referendum to be put on the polls with student government elections. It may not be YAL-endorsed because of tax liability, but I will be doing it to defeat this act of tyranny. 

On a last note I liked to thank all the YAL members that helped out so much. 

Eric Dailey:

  • rolling the cigarettes
  • working the protest booth
  • speaking to the media
  • joining us in student government 
  • speaking at the petition turn in 
  • taping part of the petition turn in

Kris Massey:

  • rolling the cigarettes 

Mikey Despo:

  • joining us in student government 

Rick Halstine:

  • rolling the cigarettes 
  • working the protest booth
  • speaking to the media
  • joining us in student government 
  • video editing

Todd Engel:

  • rolling the cigarettes
  • the later week social planning

Also,  big thanks to the Leadership Institute for all their great training. I suggest anyone who has yet to go to a Youth Leadership School go. 

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