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Harvard Students Want Smoking Banned in Neighbors’ Apartments

Harvard graduate students Kristin Huang and Yi-An Huang are a married couple with a young baby; they live in graduate student housing, and do not smoke. About 40% of graduate housing is smoke-free, and as of July, that will increase to 56%. But the Huang’s live in the other half, where smoking is permitted.

The Huangs don’t want their baby exposed to secondhand smoke from the residents of other apartment units. Harvard offered that they could move to a non-smoking complex, and the university would cover the transfer fee–but not the moving expenses. So the Huangs have launched a campaign to ban smoking in all graduate student housing. From the Harvard Crimson:

After her visit to the hospital, Huang began her own research on the subject. “I presented to the Housing Office all the information I had gathered,” she said. “Despite the clear dangers, they maintained that they would not change their policy.”

She said the Harvard housing representative she spoke to suggested that if she continued to find the second-hand smoke to be a problem, she should move to another building.

“They told us they would cover the transfer fee but wouldn’t address our moving costs,” Huang said.

Huang and her husband considered moving to a new unit but decided against it.

“We have been considering the option, but we think it’s selfish to stop there,” she said. “After everything I’ve learned from my research, I feel it’s my responsibility to advocate for all the children who live on Harvard property.”

You would think the “selfish” behavior here would be to prohibit your neighbors from smoking instead of just moving to the apartments specifically designated for people who don’t smoke. Isn’t that the best way to solve this conflict? Clearly, some people want to smoke, and some people don’t want to live near people who smoke. The university provides separate housing to accommodate these differences. That should be enough.

Kudos to Harvard for resisting the Huangs’ demands so far. Most universities are all too eager to exercise greater control over the lives of their students and employees, and the trend is certainly in favor of increasingly robust smoking bans. This policy certainly undermines many of the lessons of college. Students are instructed to tolerate diverse ways of living, to gain respect for the rights of others, to discuss solutions to problems without resorting to authoritarianism–unless these ways of thinking run counter to the public health agenda of the nanny state.

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