Just butt out: Cigarettes on campus should go up in smoke

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

The proposed campus-wide smoking ban, to take full effect by 2010, would be a welcome change to this university — not because it cares about the health of those who choose to smoke, but for the benefit of those who choose not to.

I’ve always been one for personal choice, freedom, liberty, and all that. If the university imposed a ban on free speech or free press, the rest of the student population and I would be outraged. It wouldn’t happen. Here’s the difference between free speech and smoking cigarettes: One has the potential to further the individual and the community in an intellectual, social, and emotional manner, and the other has the potential to give you lung cancer, mouth, nose, and throat cancer, larynx cancer, bladder cancer, cervical cancer, coronary heart disease, chronic bronchitis, and reduced fertility, to name a few.

“But it’s my choice,” you may say, “and suicide isn’t illegal.” Murder, on the other hand, is. And guess who else gets all the benefits of the burning chemicals you’re inhaling? The people around you. According to a report by the World Health Organization, secondhand smoke contains over 4000 chemicals, which include almost 70 carcinogens. By smoking, you are forcing those around you (who don’t happen to have their air masks handy) to inhale deadly chemicals.

I’ve tried smoking, but I’ve never been addicted to it, and I’ve never used it as a crutch to deal with my stress. A cigarette craving is something I’ve never felt, and while I’m glad for that, I can understand how this would be a point of contention with someone who does smoke. I’m sorry you are addicted to smoking. I wish we could each do our own thing and not have to worry about each other.

But here’s how I see it: Say I had this terribly contagious disease so that when someone without a full-body suit on came near me, they’d probably catch it, or at least start feeling some of its effects. Would you want me standing right outside the entrance to Skibo? Or my diseased friends and I standing in a cloud of contagions outside of Doherty, ready to smother you with plague as you exit the building? Would you even want me walking in front of you down the sidewalk, leaving a trail of infested air behind me? No, you’d probably want me to take my diseased self somewhere else; somewhere where I wouldn’t affect you.

Now here’s the clincher: you might feel a little bad for me because I have this terrible disease. You may be willing to give me some leeway and not lock me up in a hospital. But what if I chose to have this disease and it happened to be easily curable? What if I chose to stand outside the entrance of your building and infect you as you walked past? Because it’s my right, dammit! You would think I was kind of a dick. And hey, I would be.

Just because smoking is socially acceptable doesn’t make its effects disappear. Studies have conclusively shown over and over again that smoking is really, really bad for smokers and those who inhale it passively. It’s a smoker’s right to smoke at his or her leisure, even with full knowledge of its outcome. But it’s my right not to smoke or be forced to inhale smoke, and that doesn’t mix well with the smoker’s right. Unfortunately for the smoker, my right comes out on top. If people could smoke on campus without interfering with my health, that would be fine with me. Heated smoking hut, perhaps? But until that happens, making this campus smoke free is the next best thing.