The ban, ‘the symbol’ celebrates one year

Column by Austin Schmitt. E-mail [email protected]

Think about what you learned in your Freshman English class. Yes, your Freshman English class.  You probably read all of the books and essays, not really thinking about the concepts. Just going through the motions, you may have come along a concept called symbolism.

Authors sometimes use symbolism in their writing to mask an underlying theme. They use one object or tell one story to prove a point.

Today is the one year anniversary of the tobacco ban. English professors across campus are smiling from ear-to-ear as the university celebrates the greatest use of symbolism the members of this campus have ever seen.

One year ago today, a change was brought to this campus; a change that everyone thought would be epic; a change that was supposed to be the end of the world; a change that had everyone up in smoke.

It didn’t quite turn out that way, though.  Sorry “Tea Party” smoke activists, your exhibition in front of Patterson Office Tower didn’t amount to anything and hell didn’t freeze over.

Yet, from the very beginning, this ban was about two different groups of people: smokers and non-smokers.  But more than that, it is an “initiative,” as is the politically correct term, which is more symbolic than any actions rendered

“Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced,” Albert Einstein said.

The images of students putting a cigarette in the mouth of the James K. Patterson statue will forever be ingrained in the minds of the members of this campus. Take that image and then consider the columns, the letters to the editor, the editorials and the news stories, and you have symbols of what would come to be.

The anti-ban activists said this was about taking away their rights. But what rights did they have in the first place? Sure, smoking is an individual choice, but what about the people around you?

This group of smokers who were against the ban did have one selling point, though, as Albert Einstein pointed to in the above quote, a law must be enforced to be effective. How would this ban be enforced?

As it turns out, the ban would be self-enforced and didn’t take long to become common law around campus.  As one of my friends, a smoker, said the week after the ban took effect, “I’ve never gotten more dirty looks when smoking a cigarette as I did when I smoked outside of the library tonight.” Game. Set. Match.

“No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man’s permission when we ask him to obey it,” Theodore Roosevelt said.

This was the stance UK was taking, and there was no negotiation.  The ban was coming Nov. 19, and it wasn’t a debate, rather it was a standard.  This ban wasn’t about rights, as the other group alluded to. It was about symbolically creating “a better commonwealth,” as Tobacco Initiative champion Ellen Hahn said with such poise and confidence.

UK wasn’t messing around. There would be no designated smoking areas.  There would be no smoking on the sidewalks surrounding campus. Either obey or get off campus. Nobody was above the law, as Theodore Roosevelt so wisely stated in the above quotation.

Students could protest and complain all they wanted.  They could put cigarettes in Patterson’s mouth, but this wasn’t about the students.

This was about the landmark university in the landmark state of tobacco production banning the use of tobacco products. Industry and economy be damned, we are banning tobacco.

“Applause waits on success,” Benjamin Franklin said.

So the question must be asked: Was the tobacco ban a success?

I surmise that if you ask the two groups profiled above, you will get two completely different answers.

Next time you walk around campus, count the amount of smokers you see. I walk behind smokers everyday on my way to class.

Next, look at the smokers who crowd around the “90” in their attempt to be off campus,     and you will see the success of the ban.

But, I don’t believe the success of the ban can be measured in the amount of smokers who are still smoking on campus. Remember, this ban is symbolic. It was never about revolting against smokers, it was about “creating a better commonwealth.”

So I leave you with one question, UK, have you created a better commonwealth? As Benjamin Franklin stated in the previous quote, applause waits on success, so before you pat yourself on the back and praise the ban, answer that question for me.