Smoke-free campus initiative excessive, unnecessary
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 19:02
The issue of students smoking on campus is not of major concern to every student at the university and is better off left alone.
The Student Government Association’s smoking ban proposal spurs an interesting debate at the university. According to a previous article that ran in The Review last December, an opinion poll shows 72 percent of undergrads would be in favor of a tobacco-free campus. If that is an accurate measure of how our campus feels, then of course majority rules, but I think there are some situations where it’s best to compromise in the interest of “live and let live.” I think it’s fair to ban smoking inside public facilities, near athletic facilities and in natural parks. However, banning smoking from the entire campus is a little overambitious.
I’m not a smoker and I don’t really mind sharing a world with people who choose to smoke. For me, walking past a cloud of cigarette smoke outside is no worse than getting blasted by the exhaust fumes of a truck. Neither experience is particularly pleasant, but it’s probably not going to kill me because I’m not exposed to it all the time. So when these situations occur, I might curse the name of whoever invented carbon monoxide, complain to whoever I’m on the phone with and joke that I’m going to die of lung cancer. But in the end, I breathe in, I breathe out and I move on.
I realize some people are more exposed to cigarette smoke than others, and some suffer from it more than others. You might say I don’t encounter it, or that I’m oblivious to it. Fair enough, everything is relative. But here’s an interesting perspective to consider—if vegetarians strongly disagree with the practice of eating meat and get nauseous from the scent of it, should barbeques be banned from campus?
Of course, the vegetarian example is a matter of offending someone, while secondhand smoke has the potential to cause health problems, give people cancer and harm asthmatics, especially when its of a prolonged nature. I’m not a health expert, so I can’t say with any degree of certainty how harmful our brief encounters with cigarette smoke is, but I imagine it’s relatively trivial. I can, however, say with confidence that whether you have asthma or not, it’s healthier to avoid inhaling smoke altogether—just like it’s healthier to avoid staring at a screen too long, drinking alcohol or eating dining hall food.
Don’t get me wrong—smokers should be considerate of non-smokers. It’s pretty awful to blow smoke into someone’s face or leave cigarette butts all over campus, but I hate it more when I find gum under a desk when I sit down for class. That being said, you may disagree, but either way, we need to recognize the whole discussion is completely based on personal pet peeves.
I am no holier than thou for tolerating cigarette smoke, as I’m sure that there are many other imposing nuisances others can tolerate better than me. The outcome of this movement will not affect me, but it’s the principle of the matter that counts. I believe this is an issue of inconvenience and intolerance, and I wonder if this is a subject so inconvenient that it is deemed intolerable.
If 72 percent of the population believes the previous statement to be true, smokers might be out of luck. But a quarter of the population is still a fairly large number. By rule of democracy, that number doesn’t matter, but as tolerant people, maybe it does. It’s the same issue as having a bunch of people down the hall who like to party and play loud music. Is it better to say no loud music ever or make arrangements to let them have a good night every once in a while? Compromise doesn’t always work, but it comes along much more easily when you don’t sweat the small things.
Jason Hewett is a guest columnist for The Review. His viewpoints do not necessarily represent those of The Review staff. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.