By Michael Sciullo, Dick Clark, and Ryan Slakman
In the nearly two years since Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the stimulus bill) at the urging of President Obama, we have seen an abundance of criticism aimed not only at the bill itself but at the overall economic policies that this administration has set forth. Even after numerous multi-billion dollar injections from the central planners in Washington, the country remains at an economic standstill with faces record deficits and double digit unemployment that has not been experienced since the Great Depression. What was marketed and sold to hardworking Americans as a promise to grow the economy has instead delivered only a more cumbersome government that has both the ability and the tendency to intrude into every facet of the private lives of each and every individual.
One such consequence is the Southern Nevada Health District’s (SNDH’s) attempt to use Stimulus money from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to promote a smoke-free UNLV campus. To pay for this initiative, SNDH will spend $500,000 of a $14.6 million, taxpayer-funded grant allocated by the CDC through the Obama stimulus plan. And although most people realize the dangers of smoking, this stimulus-funded initiative will create few new jobs, fails to stimulate the economy, and ultimately does very little to curb smoking on the UNLV campus in the few places that it is presently allowed. Again we are faced with dealing with unforeseen (and never advertised on the bill of sale) consequences of regulation of our individual choices, and at the cost of someone else’s hard-earned paycheck.
According to Dr. Nancy York, an assistant professor at the School of Nursing at UNLV and program coordinator for the campus-wide initiative at UNLV, “creating a healthier campus environment is part of moving forward with UNLV’s goal of becoming a sustainable leader.” However, while everyone wants the healthiest possible campus at the university, this quote and indeed this line of thinking reveals a complete lack of understanding involved in the anti-smoking campaign. This buzzword version of policy-making, where key words like “sustainability” are haphazardly thrown into any situation, is detrimental to the political process and quite frankly is insulting to a motivated public that often times is simply too busy to read into the crevices of public policy.
A “sustainable” approach would not use taxpayer-funded stimulus money as an excuse to crack down on victimless personal conduct. This type of prohibition poses a much greater obstacle to sustainability than do personal vices. A sustainable approach would not strip away student and faculty choices while distorting health data under the guise of public health. A truly sustainable approach would encourage the free-market dissemination of information to smokers and see its end result occurring from the personal motivation taken on by individuals in order to achieve healthier lives and a smoke-free campus. For instance, the designation of specific and strategic outdoor smoking areas would allow people to exercise personal choice while creating a convenient and safe atmosphere for non-smokers and without creating hostility between the two groups. Furthermore, while a multitude of outreach programs and campus-wide organizations exist to combat those that wish to smoke in public places throughout the campus, the approach being taken by Dr. York, the SNDH, and the CDC is the end product of a subsidized society in which ultimately free individuals are made into criminals and voluntary action is prohibited by those with private vices of their own.
The irony behind all of this is that under the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, smoking has already been banned in all indoor locations at UNLV, including even private campus dorm rooms. This over-reaching new initiative will ban all smoking on ANY part of UNLV’s campus and includes cigarettes, hookahs, cigars, and cloves (actually, forget the cloves; they were already banned earlier this year via another piece of do-gooder legislation and resulting regulatory pronouncements). The puritanical campus-wide ban will even forbid students from smoking in their own personal vehicles, completely ignoring the fact that vehicle emissions are significantly more prevalent than second hand smoke and create a far greater inhalation exposure to the public than sporadic smoking in designated locations. Perhaps the next step will be to ban driving altogether in the name of public health. Where does this vicious cycle of overregulation ever end?
In typical fashion, it is evident that the initiative is based completely on the perceived health benefits of the UNLV smoking ban. However, this progressive act does not appear to take into account any sort of precedent that it might set as it strips the individual of his or her right to choose what to do with his or her body. This is the very freedom of choice that this country’s framers imagined for a free society and that our Constitution guarantees. Furthermore, these bureaucrats intend to implement policy without any shred of evidence that it will actually protect anyone whatsoever.
Will the smoking ban improve the overall quality of health at UNLV? We do not know for sure. Will the smoking ban help some smokers kick the habit? Possibly, although can it not be said that free market methods of information dissemination and community involvement would not prove to be even more effective.What is clear is the smoking ban will restrict personal choice and violate the civil liberties of students, professors, and even visitors to the beautiful campus here at UNLV. We can be 100%, absolutely, unequivocally certain that it will.