By MACKENZIE PITTMAN
Guest Columnist

President Benson’s motives were clear when he said in a video posted to the university’s website, “We have an opportunity to improve the health of everyone who steps on our campus.” Yes, he does have the opportunity to, but does he have the right to dictate the health of an individual?

In an effort to promote good health choices and reduce healthcare costs, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently attempted to tax sodas larger than 16 ounces. Naturally, the city was not happy. A majority was completely against the proposal, arguing that he has no say on personal health decisions. I believe that our university board’s decision on tobacco can be compared to the extremely out-of-line Bloomberg.

Smoking tobacco is an understandable ban; it has detrimental effects on the health of those exposed to secondhand smoke. Cigarettes contain more than 400 poisonous chemicals. Yes, it is completely unfair to endanger the health of other people with someone else’s poor personal health choice. However, it is not fair to strip the right of personal liberty when it does not affect anyone other than the individual.

   Smokeless tobacco, with 28 toxins, can cause cancer of the mouth, esophagus, pharynx, tongue, lip and pancreas. It is also linked to heart disease and strokes. It is not a wise decision to dip or chew, but it is not affecting anyone but that person. Banning smokeless tobacco is violating the free will to which an individual has rights.

For the sake of my own health, I do not use any tobacco products. I, as many of you, find it to be a pretty repulsive habit. It is disgusting, and I do not appreciate stepping around others’ gobs of tobacco spit on the sidewalks. Yet, as nasty and as it is, I cannot support an authority’s decision to take away someone else’s personal choice when their choice isn’t affecting me. Taking away the freedoms on which this country was founded is just as ugly as the chewing and spitting itself.

If President Benson was to continue taking steps to improve the health of students, and if he were to take the same extreme actions as he has with tobacco, it would be the same as requiring each individual to abide by the guidelines of the food pyramid, and enforcing serious consequences if they were to step out of the diet plan. How is this fair at all?

Smoking should absolutely be banned; no one should be exposed to such a high risk of cancer because of a smoker’s irresponsibility. But smokeless tobacco should not be banned. No one has the authority to force a personal health decision on you, especially when the only person it concerns is yourself. By all means, take care of your body; you have to live in it the rest of your life. However, hold on to your freedoms and fight for them. It’s your right.