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A slap in the face with every puff

Credit: File Photo Credit: File Photo
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Carnegie Mellon University dedicated a bridge on Oct. 30, 2009 in honor of Randy Pausch, a professor who died in 2008 of pancreatic cancer. Everyone on this campus has either seen or read his “Last Lecture” and has, in one way or another, been deeply affected by the message and wisdom he shared during his last few months on Earth. Yet today, a mere year after the bridge’s dedication, students smoking on the Pausch Bridge are degrading Pausch’s memory.

At any time of day, one can walk along the bridge and see people blatantly and unapologetically smoking. No, Pausch didn’t die from lung cancer triggered by cigarette smoke — and no, people are not smoking in order to maliciously mock Pausch’s memory. But the very fact that people are engaging in an activity that is unarguably linked to the cause of over a dozen types of cancers makes it seem — accurately — as if they don’t consider the implications of their actions.

The fact is that numerous studies from the American Cancer Society (ACS) and universities all over the world have found that smoking is a main cause of pancreatic cancer. A study conducted by the European Institute of Oncology in Italy found that smoking cigarettes caused a 75 percent increase in the risk of pancreatic cancer compared to that of non-smokers. Pancreatic cancer is one of deadliest cancers that exist, meaning that smokers are increasing their risk for cancer as well as the risk for others around them who are forced to endure second-hand smoke as they walk to and from classes.

It is disheartening to walk along the memorial bridge and see the remnants of cigarette butts littering its path, but it is more disheartening to think that students who are considered the bright, innovative intellectuals of tomorrow lack the intelligence or willpower to refrain from smoking atop such an important memorial.

The Carnegie Mellon chapter of the ACS seems to be the only group of people that is stepping up to address the issue of smoking on campus in general. The group is planning to participate in an annual ACS event to get people to quit smoking, but such an initiative isn’t enough. Nothing is going to change until there is either stricter enforcement of the rules regarding smoking on campus or greater penalties for those who see nothing wrong in breaking the rules or disrespecting the memory of Pausch.

Any decent person knows that it would be wrong to go to a civil rights museum and shout a racial slur or attend a Holocaust Remembrance Day celebration wearing a swastika. Likewise, no decent person would be so inclined to show up to a Mothers Against Drunk Driving conference with a bottle of alcohol in hand.

So what is the reasoning behind why so many people think it is okay to smoke on a bridge dedicated to a great man who lost his life to cancer?