Smoking on campus is a choice and a right

The following statement coincidentally was released only weeks after the recent smoking ban at the Miller School of Medicine:

“Dear UM Student,

Effective Fall 2010 there will be a $50.00 per semester surcharge for smokers who are enrolled in the Student Health Insurance plan through United Health Care.”

You may have read this in an e-mail sent by university administrators April 6. It is the most far-reaching invasion of student rights in decades.

Students should be able to smoke freely within the specified parameters on campus grounds. Thus, the fact that there has not yet been outrage among students over this surcharge is hardly understandable and rather perplexing.

Shortly after the medical campus instituted its smoking ban in March, the Coral Gables campus cleverly sought to penalize student smokers through a surcharge on one’s university-run health insurance plan- unless they immediately quit their habit.

But how exactly does the university intend to miraculously find these “smokers?” The subsequent charge is not entirely the issue, but instead it is how they intend to eradicate this right that is especially concerning

Let me establish my position. I am not a smoker and am not particularly fond of the practice; however, I do believe in and support one’s right to smoke as one pleases given it is written in law and granted to all over the age of 18, contingent on the specific legislation within each state.

The university’s main argument for the ban on the medical school campus and the surcharge is the danger second-hand smoke poses to non-smokers.

This line of reasoning is valid on the medical school campus where patients are more at risk of contracting illnesses and deserve to be shielded from such possibilities as long as they remain in the hospital.

Furthermore, those med school students who wish to smoke can do so near their residences off-campus given the campus does not offer student housing.

The same ban on the Coral Gables campus, which the university is considering implementing in the coming years, would be unjust considering the campus houses thousands of students who frankly, would be left without a choice or forced to cross the street to smoke. Why are smokers singled out?

As a classmate recently pointed out to me, would the university consider a health insurance surcharge for obese students on their health insurance plan because they also- like smokers- pose a greater costs in risk? As is the case with smokers, those who are obese have made a choice to be so. I am not by any means judging that choice, but only re-stating that it is one.

I support any student’s choice to live as he or she pleases within legal boundaries, but apparently your university does not share the same sentiment.

Daniel Medina is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and political science. He may be contacted at