News Story

MSU Bans Smoking on Campus But Reports No Violations

Is the law about enforcement or education?

No records have been collected that might indicate whether a new smoking ban on the Michigan State University campus has had any effect in its first three months.

The measure raised eyebrows last summer because it also reaches into private vehicles traveling on public roads that pass through the sprawling campus. Drivers and passengers, or anyone else on MSU property, are subject to a $150 fine for violations.

MSU responded to a Freedom of Information Act request by saying that no documents exist that are related to enforcement of the policy, which went into effect on Aug. 15. The request for documents asked the university for the number of tickets and warnings issued up until Nov. 18.

“Enforcement was never going to be a focus of this effort,” said MSU spokesman Jason Cody in an email. “Hence, we have not given out any tickets. And our police do not track warnings.”

The ban includes the use of e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco on campus.

“It’s a bad idea to keep laws on the books without enforcing them,” said criminal justice analyst Kahryn Riley of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in an email. “Maintaining a free society depends so much on holding everyone accountable to the laws. Every time we pass one knowing that we’re not actually responsible for obeying it, we’re reinforcing the notion that the law is arbitrary, or is just a tool for political posturing.”