Complete ban on smoking would be too extreme
Apparently, the last great vice of college students in America isn’t drinking, drugs, partying too hard, sleeping around or eating too much unhealthy food in cafeterias — it’s smoking. There is something fundamentally unfair about the fact that those other habits are socially acceptable for college students, yet smokers are stigmatized to a shameful degree. Last week, another columnist from The State News argued that the university should consider banning all on-campus smoking, an idea that I do not agree with.
Nobody wants to walk through a wall of smoke to get into their dorms or classrooms. I understand that. The current university policy that requires smokers to be 25 feet from buildings is a completely fair demand. Beyond the rudest smokers, there are very few who think we should return to a 1950s-era general acceptance of smoking, allowing it even indoors. There is plenty of evidence showing that secondhand smoke is unsafe at any level, maybe even worse than using tobacco products. So, limiting non-smokers’ exposure to secondhand smoke for this reason is completely acceptable.
But some go too far in wanting to completely ban smoking on campus. I can’t see why the university should pursue that kind of action. About a third of college students in America use tobacco products, at least casually. It’s been argued that a ban encourages those people to quit smoking altogether. However, I think we can all agree that, historically, bans like this are laughably ineffective. In a 2011 survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 percent of high school students reported that they recently smoked marijuana, a drug that is illegal in most states. Another interesting point is that smoking rates continue to fall in America, while marijuana usage climbs. Whether something is legal or banned doesn’t seem to affect how much it is used. While I’m no libertarian, a top-down solution to this cannot be considered wise.
No smoker is going to argue that smoking is healthy. We all know it’s bad for you, but ask yourself: When was the last time you heard of a college sophomore dying of lung cancer caused by smoking? It just doesn’t happen. Statistically, most diseases such as cancer or heart disease caused by smoking aren’t likely to affect a smoker until after they turn 40, assuming they’ve been smoking regularly since they turned 18. Contrast that with something like alcohol, which could cause an irresponsible student to end up dead on their 21st birthday, even if they never had a drink before that day.
I’m not simply trying to say that smoking is okay because there are worse things that people could be doing. However, we need to put this in perspective before we start arbitrarily banning and stigmatizing.
Cameron Macko is an intern at The State News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.