By Anonymous: Helena Rose
As I walk down the sidewalk, trying to ease my mind after a long and stressful class, I take a short hit off of my vape to relax the nicotine withdrawals I experience after sitting in a room being lectured for two hours. I hear the dreadful sound of a Public Safety golf cart. Oh God. I think. This is my last day here, might as well start looking for other colleges. Then, the cart passes me by, and I breathe out the smoke in a long sigh.
This experience is a day-to-day struggle for students at Berea with nicotine addiction. So many students are harshly penalized for their habits. The rest of us, who haven’t been caught yet, have to keep eyes in the back of our heads to avoid the long arm of the law. That’s an exaggeration, but barely. It’s plastered all over the place that Berea is a tobacco and nicotine-free campus. With the rise of addiction statistics, it seems reasonable, but for those born into a smoking family and presented with cigarettes from our early teens, it is far from it.
This rule is in no way beneficial to students; it is simply another way for the College to signal the outside world that we are clean, that we are the “good” Appalachians. Speaking of Appalachia, this is one of the most significant areas for smoking (and subsequently, the alternative of vaping) due to how prior generations viewed the habit. So many of our families smoked, and so many of us stole cigarettes from our parents as kids having no idea what lifetime of strife we had signed up for. It’s gross; it isn’t pretty, but it is real. A large portion of campus vapes or smokes, including plenty of staff and professors, and every last one of us knows that quitting is nowhere near as easy as being told that we aren’t allowed to use nicotine. It is easier for the school to punish us for smoking.
I understand why the College has done what they have done, putting these flashy new rules in place three years ago, so I offer some alternatives. Instead of penalizing smokers, simply ask them to smoke somewhere else, like designated smoking/vaping areas, so students who wish to be nowhere near us can avoid it. I know if I managed to quit, I wouldn’t want to be around the smoke. Instead of confiscating their nicotine products, offer addiction counseling and kindness. This dreadful addiction has been met with an iron fist, and I am even more ashamed and scared of it than I already was. Perhaps this campus would be truly tobacco-free if the College sought alternative ways to handle smokers. I know I, for one, would much prefer an offer of help than an offer to leave campus in the next 48 hours.