Alcohol and tobacco are different!
Sera Murughia, University of Otago, Dec. 17, 2013
No! The overwhelming majority of alcohol consumers are not addicted and cause no harm to others. Small daily doses of alcohol reduce the cardiovascular risk and risk of depression, while tobacco increases these risks and many others.
Most consumers of tobacco are addicted and every second consumer is killed. Even small doses increase health risks. In fact the dose response curve is much steeper at low doses, so that second-hand smoke is a considerable health risk, comparable to heavy ambient air pollution.
Manfred Neuberger, Medical University of Vienna, Dec. 18, 2013
Our cultural interactions with alcohol and tobacco are different, certainly in Europe. Think back to the Greek and Roman civilizations whose staple commodities were wheat, olive and vine. Think of the use of alcohol, wine specifically, in two of the worlds major religions Judaism and Christianity. In ancient societies when water was unsafe to drink a fermented beverage was a much safer option often a low alcohol beer style, think back to northern European traditions or Ancient Egypt. Tobacco, from the Americas, was a very late entrant onto the European stage. While the two are often consumed in the same environments, heavy drinkers are not necessarily heavy smokers and I am not aware of that smoking tobacco is an integral part of any major religious or other cultural tradition.
Those of you who would like to ban alcohol from university premises - do you also want to ban deeply held religious traditions? Prohibition did not work in the USA it simply introduced other and often more dangerous forms of drinking. What makes you think that banning alcohol completely from all university premises would be any more acceptable or successful that any of the past poorly thought through attempts?
I make this point not because I am religious myself but because we sometimes get so overexcited by the very small number of those who abuse alcohol that we forget how central our interaction is with it in many ways. We forget because most of these interactions are so moderate and so culturally ingrained that we don't see them as drinking events, when we 'wet the baby's head' at a Christening, when we toast the bride and groom at a wedding etc. Running alongside this, alcohol consumption is falling in many European countries and has been for decades. This doesn't mean that dangerous antisocial consumption doesn't happen but it does mean that our perceptions are often mediated only to see the excess - it makes better news.
If we want to change the behaviour of those who do consume dangerously we could do two things which are rarely talked about by academia or government. We could ban all media publicity of unsafe drinking instead of only publicising bad behaviours; this might help to reduce such poor aspirational imagery amongst young drinkers. We could also investigate what good/ moderate consumption practices are naturally occurring in differing populations and seek to promote these, accepted nudge theory tactics.
Smoking tobacco is never good for your health or for that of those around you. Moderate consumption of alcohol is not harmful for you or others; it is in fact often a pleasurable, inclusive, social activity. Why would a university want to ban something that many adults enjoy? Any attempt to stigmatise them both in the same way is very unlikely to work as culturally we don't interact with them both in the same way; we know that they are different.
Note: two universities in the UK have alcohol free Student Union 'bars'. After initially loosing money both are now quite successful spaces used by students from a range of backgrounds. When wanting to consume alcohol students simply move to another space which does serve it. Alcohol has not been banned, just given less prominence.
Caroline Ritchie, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Dec. 29, 2013