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Light up, or lights out?

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As of Oct. 1, UFV has gone completely smoke-free. From that date forward, smoking will not be allowed anywhere on UFV campuses. This policy change comes less than a month before recreational cannabis usage will be legalized across Canada. The timing isn’t a coincidence, and it raises the question of how these new laws will affect one another.

UFV’s new smoke-free status applies to smoking and vaping of all kinds, including both marijuana and tobacco. In contrast to UFV, UBC announced that they will allow marijuana to be used on their campus when it becomes legal. An email has been circulating on student accounts with information on cannabis, but it is simply a poster with basic information that pretty much everyone who is old enough to be a student here already knows. To be safe, it is best to assume that any regulations against smoking apply to all substances, unless otherwise specified.

It remains to be seen how strictly these new regulations will be enforced. I suspect that, much like smoking, selling, and growing pot in B.C. in the past, enforcers will generally be willing to turn a blind eye, as long as one isn’t too open about it.

Already, smokers may be finding ways to bend the new rules. Earlier this month, a passenger on the shuttle pointed out two individuals who were supposedly lighting up just beyond the road on the edge of the parking lot, and therefore just slightly off campus. I couldn’t see them from my vantage point, so I do not know if that is what they were doing. Either way, I am certain people will find ways to get their fix on the sly, rules or no rules. Here in B.C., where pot has long been illegal but tacitly accepted by society in general, people have plenty of practice.

I have also seen the changing attitudes to smokable drugs over time. When I was growing up, society had shifted to a separate but equal division. Bars, planes, restaurants, etc. often had smoking and non-smoking sections, as one can see in some old movies. As the years went by, the non-smoking areas swallowed up and kicked out the smoking ones, leaving those still needing their nicotine ever more frustrated. In contrast, laws against marijuana have gradually eased, becoming decriminalized or outright legal in one place after another, even in parts of the United States of all places. It’s Canada’s turn now.

It would be a bitter irony if we at last shed one prohibition only to adopt another. It is not as far-fetched as it may sound. The United States re-legalized alcohol in 1933, only to ban cannabis four years later. Something similar could happen with tobacco in coming years, and the signs of the times suggest it very well might.

Tobacco is not good for you. Neither is alcohol or any other recreational drug. For that matter, junk food is not good for you, and neither is sitting around staring at a glowing screen all day, and that is one vice we are all guilty of. You may say that second-hand smoke is toxic, and unfairly affects non-smokers. The same is true of car exhaust. It too is toxic, and it unfairly affects me, even though I don’t drive. Driving of course is a necessary evil, especially here in the Fraser Valley. Relaxation is also necessary (although I hesitate to call it an evil). I doubt it has escaped your attention, but university life is incredibly stressful. We all have our ways of taking the edge off, and most of them are bad for us. In cases where there can be collateral damage, as with smoking, certain regulations, like forbidding smoking too close to doors and vents make sense. Ostracizing an entire group of people, who cannot exactly just discard their habit on a whim, seems like overkill.

New rules come into place, and other rules are made to nullify them. In and around UFV, we seem to be taking one step forward, two steps back.

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