Venting the Fumes for a Smoke-free Campus
So you’re walking down Ring Mall from your Humanities class, animatedly chatting with your friends, when all of a sudden, as you turn to face forward, you get a mouthful of good ol’ carbon monoxide mixed with benzene, arsenic, formaldehyde and about 3,996 other slightly calamitous chemicals from the silver-haired Spanish professor strolling along in front of you, twiddling his Cuban between his thumb and forefinger. How do you react?
If you’re like many non-smokers, you would most likely explode into a fit of violent wheezing, gasping for air and fumbling through your backpack for your one lifeline: your inhaler. Depending on the amount and angle with which the smoke entered your nose or mouth, the inhaler may not work, resulting in you collapsing to the floor in a hysterical coughing frenzy while simultaneously shaking unrestrainedly, wishing you had bade your mother farewell more sincerely that morning and regretting not telling that half-drunk frat boy who cut you off that morning and then proceeded to give you the bird where he could truly stick that finger.
But that’s just if you’re one of many non-smokers sensitive to the effects of such smoke.
Perhaps catering to other students with similar death sentences on their heads, college campuses across the nation are starting to change their no-smoking policies from restrictions in or near buildings to a campus-wide smoking ban. This means smoking inside and outside campus buildings, restaurants and even sidewalks and parks is strictly prohibited. According to the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, a California-based lobbying group, the number of these completely smoke-free colleges and universities has more than quadrupled in size since 2006 from 34 to almost 160.
This number doesn’t include colleges like Minnesota State University and Carleton College who consider themselves smoke-free campuses even though they allow smoking in designated outdoor areas.
Currently, UC Irvine has not implemented any of the above policies; only the UCI Medical Center has been declared completely smoke-free. UCI’s policy on smoking, as it stands right now, states that smoking is prohibited throughout all indoor and outdoor areas within 25 feet of entrances, windows and ventilation air intakes. Smoking is also prohibited throughout the Student Center complex, “including all patio, courtyard, seating and terrace areas.”
But the recent smoking restrictions imposed at our fellow universities beg the question: Should UCI initiate a campus-wide ban of its own?
Now we know what you’re thinking. You, yes you, the one who’s frantically shoving the box of Camel Lights back into your pocket in the hopes of presenting a façade of neutrality. You’re going to bring up the “legal adults” argument, probably one similar to the argument made by the Miami Student’s editorial on the same topic: “Fundamentally, legal adults are given the freedom to choose whether or not they want to smoke—stripping this right opens the floodgates of good health regulations to fatty foods, exercise or any activity that negatively affects health.”
However that argument doesn’t hold ground. Regulating things like the amount and type of food you eat and forcing you to exercise would truly be invading your private life and the control you have over your own body, and is entirely different from restricting smoking, which affects not only you and your health, but also the health of the people within a mile’s radius around you. Thus, it is more about public safety than basic human rights. If administrative officials try to prohibit smoking on campuses in order to force students to abandon the habit or with the hope that the lack of smoking areas will encourage them to quit on their own, they would be wrong in doing so and would probably find that their efforts would be fruitless.
Excuse us for trying to prevent you from slowly and painstakingly allowing the agonizing deterioration of what’s left of your meager, crumbling lungs until you ultimately expire before you get a chance to enjoy your mid-life crisis. Don’t pretend like you don’t know smoking is bad for you!
But you do have the right to do whatever you wish with your own body, and therefore, a compromise should be endorsed: designated smoking areas across the UCI campus. That way, you and your comrades can enjoy a nice puff on your death-stick – err, cigarette – and non-smokers are promised a breath of fresh Southern California air and death by unnatural causes instead.
And these designated areas don’t have to be like those glass cages one might find at certain airports where a passerby can gawk at clustered smokers packed in a two-by-four chicken coop, reminiscent of a local county fair. No, they can be nice little areas outdoors that are sectioned off for smokers.
The portion of Aldrich Park known as Founders Court, which extends between Humanities Hall and McGaugh Hall, across from the greenhouses on Ring Mall, seems to be a perfect location for student smokers. Due to its circular benches that are perfect for a small social gatherings and the pleasant shade cast by the surrounding trees, this area would be a nice getaway. It’s also convenient for our non-science resident smokers, whose lethargic lungs would sputter and die on the way to the designated areas near the biological sciences.
By adding a couple of ashtrays and trashcans to these designated areas, the university would also lower maintenance costs, since the university doesn’t need to pick up cigarette butts that dot the cement paths around campus. The police officers that stand guard patrolling the bikers can add to their agenda by herding sneaky smokers to the sectioned-off areas.
In exchange for the minor inconvenience that nicotine-lovers will have to undergo, we’re willing to provide them certain perks. Since we are excluding tobacco-inhalers from the rest of the campus whenever they hold anything resembling a cigarette in their hands, they are more than welcome to form exclusive, VIP clubs for smokers only – “Cancer Clubs,” if you please – in those designated areas. They can have signs, passwords and secret handshakes—anything they like. Just let the rest of us breathe in peace.
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