Healthy Campus is about more than smoking

A campus without smokers is not necessarily a healthy campus, as problems of obesity, drugs, alcohol, and more are still important to good health. However, all that students seem to be getting from the Healthy Campus 2010 Task Force is that the group has proposed a plan for designated smoking areas with a system of fines and a warning and that its members may someday push for a smoke-free university.

While smoking is one of the task force’s charges, it is only one of 28 areas designated for improvement by 2010. The task force at Carnegie Mellon is part of a larger, nationwide effort by the American College Health Association (ACHA) to create healthy colleges and universities through physical fitness, healthy eating, reduced drug and alcohol use, and better sexual decision-making, among others.

However, smoking has risen to the top of the priority list for the group of 25 students, faculty, and staff members of the task force. According to Anita Barkin, Director of Student Health Services, the focus on smoking policies is due to their being manageable to enforce.

Yet smoking should not eclipse the many benefits of such a multi-faceted program. In fact, an ACHA survey given to the student body earlier this year via e-mail revealed that smoking is not the first or even second biggest health concern for students. These two positions were occupied by stress, followed closely by sleep. However, the campus community seems to be focusing more on the potential smoking ban rather than on anything else.

There are countless other health issues besides stress and sleep plaguing our students. For example, one study in Men’s Fitness claimed Carnegie Mellon as the second most unfit college in the nation in 2006. The task force has actually done things to help out this initiative — for example, they have started a walking club, but this initiative remains little known to students.

While the Healthy Campus task force’s efforts at accommodating a university smoking policy are admirable, its energies should also be spent both developing and publicizing initiatives aimed at other health concerns of students. If the task force is able to make students aware of these other concerns as much as they have with the proposed smoking ban, the initiative could be less controversial overall and more effective in making our campus healthier.