Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A letter to HELP Univeristy College

Dear Management, Staff, and students of HELP University College,

Hail the Government of Malaysia for making attempts to reduce the number of smokers in the country! Recently the Vice Chancellor of University Sains Malaysia pointed out a mockery made by the Malaysian government's enforcement system in relation the enforcement of the ‘smoke free pact’ that the nation had signed. The Chancellor was not impressed in some members of the country allowing large tobacco companies organise the “international tobacco conference” here in Kuala Lumpur. Further, to rub salt to the nations battered efforts in curbing tobacco use, the VC didn’t think very much about the national airline offering to be the ‘official’ carrier for the event.

While this debate about proper enforcement was raging, another debate much like this was brewing at HELP University. The situation is this. Is it right to place ‘park’ type benches in close proximity to the fire escape of the building. So close that smoke from the their breath frequently gets into enclosed air conditioning vents. So close that the boundary that sets the smokers away from those who dare ask for clean air on campus has become all but ‘smoky’. Its is not unusual to find cigarette buds scattered in the back exit ways of level 4 and level 3 of KPD block E. It is no unusual to find cigarette buds at the entrance to the campus building, inside elevators, and all corridors that lead inside.

The behaviour of the some tycoon smokers has become more of living their own right to smoke while ignoring the rights of non-smokers and their plea for a smoke free university/college entrance and/or environment.

While the local universities have taken bold steps in setting a bench mark towards smoking on campus by exclude all smokers from campus. The Local universities are uniting to reject university applications (both student and staff) from smokers. Though I don’t go that far as to blatantly disrespect the sad needs of the smoker to indulge in poisoning his/her-self (its your right to die if you want to), I how ever believe that justice needs to be served to protect the rights of the non smokers who demand a smoke free environment. By allowing people to smoke within campus of within 5 Meters of campus grounds is by no means serving justice to this large population.

The VC of USM rightly points out the national divide on smoking policy (i.e. to smoke or not to smoke). Some feel that it should be allowed, while some feel that it should be totally banned. However, most feel that allowing students to smoke at educational esteemed institutions fall drastically short of setting of proper academic, social, and leadership standards.

The question to ask yourself is has HELP university adequately set standards towards smoking (or the lack of it) to represent government agenda. Apart from printing odd poster that and equally strange statement in the ‘blue’ program hand book issued by the Department of American Degree Program, that reads “butt off… smoking is strictly prohibited at HELP institute” (strictly was originally in bold italics), nothing is being done to enforce that “strict” code into conduct.

I urge the management of HELP to change the current nonchalant attitude towards smoking on campus and make the following recommendations that would help enforce no-smoking on campus ground for the benefit those who demand a smoke free environment.

1. Strictly enforce the NO-SMOKING regulations as that required by the government. It is our right as students to have a smoke free environment within the campus grounds. This is not just my opinion, but is to a large extent government policy. Universities and colleges are a place of public interest and hence rules that encourage and public safety must apply.

2. Introduce severe penalties for those who violate campus "NO-SMOKING" regulations. This means taking a an active role, in stopping the practice of smoking within campus. No Smoking signs (or the lack of it) would not promote no-smoking behaviour. It is important that staff both academic and non-academic be enforced to take action if needed.

3. Actively take part in more ANTI-smoking campaigns. To make sure that the university stands out and sends a clear message about the consequence of smoking, and the effort that it would put into getting its students to kick the habit. The ambivalent attitude that university currently takes teaches young students that it is okay to smoke, just as long as you are doing it ‘behind my back’. But in reality, the real consequences of smoking is far more serious and needs to be addressed immediately.

4. Negative stereotypes and negative attitudes towards smoking should be encouraged. There should be no reason to be ashamed of it either. If university is a facility of learning, then students should not be thought wrong values. It is generally accepted (and I am not going to cite) that smoking is harmful to health. As a premier private university, HELP should lead by example and make a public appeal to ban smoking.

5. Psychologists (or Psychologists-to-be) SHOULD have a positive influence on human behaviour. Any form of training, that undergraduate psychology students experience, should be one that fosters the development of ‘positive’ values in them. Attitudes that foster negative behaviours (in this case smoking) should be discouraged.

It important that an active enforcement of what already seems to be university policy (strictly no smoking) should be encouraged for the benefit of those who plead for a clean environment both inside and outside the school premises. Though the said rule may not be ‘just’ rules, they are nevertheless there to protect the wellbeing of the students, and to encourage a healthy lifestyle. These rules do not by them selves solve the issue. There needs to be an active enforcement of these rules.

1 comment:

mythsn_legends said...

I fully support your campaign on the issue of smoking in the campus premises! ;)