Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cal State Fullerton Bans Smoking, Smokeless Tobacco Use, Alcohol Use, Binge Drinking, Unprotected Sex, and Junk Food Consumption on Campus; Actually, Just Smoking and Smokeless Tobacco Use

In an act of selective paternalism, the California State University at Fullerton has banned all tobacco use on campus, including smoking in cars and all smokeless tobacco use. The reason for the ban? According to the president of the Academic Senate: "Shouldn't the university be about health?"

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I call this selective paternalism because while the policy bans some unhealthy personal behaviors - smoking and smokeless tobacco use - it does not prohibit others, such as alcohol use, binge drinking, unsafe sex, and excessive junk food consumption.

Although some apparently defended the policy as being necessary to protect the campus community from secondhand smoke, that explanation could obviously not justify a policy that bans smokeless tobacco use since chewing tobacco produces no secondhand smoke and threatens no one else.

The apparent purpose for the policy, then, is to control personal health decisions that students make. This is classic paternalism. However, it is a selective form of paternalism as it only addresses one specific unhealthy behavior - tobacco use - while leaving many others untouched.

I find it highly hypocritical for the university to claim that it is about health and then to selectively ban tobacco use without touching alcohol use. Before boasting about how the university is all about health, perhaps Cal State Fullerton should first examine its tremendous alcohol problem. The university readily admits that 28% of its students drink alcohol excessively.

I find the university to be full of hypocrisy, as well as cowardice, to ban students from stuffing tobacco in their cheeks but continue to allow them to drink alcohol and get drunk on campus.

The hypocrisy of self-righteous actions like this is troubling. If you are willing to justify controlling student behavior to protect them from themselves, then how could you not protect them from the most imminent and severe health threat they face on campus: excessive alcohol use?

After all, shouldn't the university be about health?

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