The Student Government Association is trying to give the University of Memphis community its right to chew tobacco, that is. On Nov. 8, the SGA passed a decision that would change the current smoke-free policy on campus to an “on-campus smoking prohibition,” permitting smokeless tobacco to be used on campus area. Addison Piggott, the SGA senator who sponsored the resolution, argued students should be able to use smokeless tobacco everywhere outdoors because they have no secondhand effects on non-smokers. “We shouldn’t be taking away their right,” he explained. “If they are over 18, they should have the right to use smokeless tobacco if they choose to.”
Piggott defined smokeless tobacco products as “dip, snuff or any form of chewing tobacco that doesn’t involve fire or smoke.”
Electronic cigs are not included in this list because they are “technically tobacco products,” Piggott reported, but if he can determine they do not have harmful second-hand effects, he would consider writing a law allowing them also. While the SGA voted in favor of approving this resolution for administrative consideration, Maria Alam, assistant vice president and chief human resources officer, explained that students originally brought banning tobacco products to the administration’s attention through the SGA.
“The initiative to eliminate tobacco smoking was originally enforced in 2010 by students through the Student Government Association,” she added. “Based on feedback received from the students and overall University community, the smoke-free initiative was changed to a limited tobacco-use initiative.”
Piggott declared that by establishing designated tobacco-use areas, secondhand smoke is contained, but there is no need to contain smokeless tobacco use because there are no bad effects to those around the user.
“Tobacco that produces smoke is harmful, so we are protecting the rights of nonsmokers,” he said. “We decided to have smoking zones so people who want to smoke can still do it and those who don’t can find their way around it, so we aren’t infringing on people’s rights either way.”
But Alam said the purpose of the limited-use tobacco policy is “to promote healthy living through a healthy environment for students, employees and visitors,” not just to eliminate secondhand smoke.
At the SGA senate meeting, a senator spoke up about the uncleanliness of “spitting” smokeless tobacco. Piggott replied that smokeless tobacco is biodegradable and does not stain concrete. Mason Lin, sophomore finance major and senator of the College of Arts and Sciences, voted in favor of approving the verdict.