Should smoking zones be created on campus?

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Although these signs on campus often go ignored by smokers, one person did acknowledge its existence by putting out his cigarette on the picture (look closely). –Photo by Rebecca Rosen

Hannah Roberts argues against designating smoking zones on campus.

 

Back in the day, I have been told by some of my professors, there was smoking throughout all of the campus: in the classrooms, offices and dorms. Then, because of a campaign by non-smokers who wished to breathe fresh air, smoking indoors was banned on our campus. Since then, city ordinances have dictated that smoking should take place at least 25 feet from every building entrance. This seems very fair. No one who does not wish to will have to endure more than a slight whiff of smoke in his day-to-day life. Although it may be inconvenient for smokers to have to smoke away from their favorite benches and from cover in the rain, they are still able to smoke should the desire arise. The law should be respected. It would not be unreasonable for the Office of Campus Safety to issue warnings and small fines for those smokers who ignore the Irving law.

However, the idea that smokers and nonsmokers should be segregated, or that smoking should be banned from campus, is absurd and wholly unnecessary.

For one, I am fairly certain that only a very small minority actually wish to see their smoker friends banished from campus or pushed off into special areas.

Second, regardless of the size of this anonymous group, why should their desire to not smell smoke outweigh the smokers’ desire to enjoy a cigarette, cigar or pipe? I imagine that smokers rarely go up to those wishing to avoid smoke and intentionally blow smoke into their faces, so why should the anti-smoker be able to walk into a group of smokers and say, “I wish to be here, so you must go elsewhere”?

Third, this kind of administrative intervention is paternalistic and against the character of our school. At the University of Dallas, we learn how to be responsible and respectful people. As such, we know that we ought to take the feelings of others into consideration in our daily lives. I know many non-smokers who will put up with a little smoke in their air at TGIT and in the biergarten because those are appropriate environments for smoking. As one of my non-smoking friends said, “TGIT wouldn’t be TGIT without the cigarettes.” However, I also know many smokers who will refrain from smoking on the cafeteria patio or will step away from a group on the Mall because they do not wish to bother their friends. This sort of respectfulness should be, and is, encouraged.

To have a rule banning or further regulating smoking on campus is essentially to have the administration dealing with an issue that the students should be dealing with on an individual level, by kindly asking others to respect their desire to avoid smoke and by generously respecting those requests.

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Seamus Young defends the proposals for smoking zones.

 

I have heard smart people argue that our campus’s smoke-filled air adds to its spirit of intellectualism, invoking such well-regarded Christian figures as G.K. Chesterton in defense of the habit. To cite a thinker from a century ago says much about UD’s strength as an institution, but also reveals why the creation of smoking zones might be a necessary step for the university to take.

Many of our campus’s smokers disregard existing municipal regulations against smoking near building entrances, perhaps to demonstrate early 20th century pseudo-intellectualism. Catholics, however, are required to obey good civil laws. Reducing the non-smoking community’s exposure to secondhand smoke is a worthy goal, especially considering the uniquely high number of small children and pregnant women roaming our campus. As such, the university should strongly consider reinforcing the civil law with its own administrative policy against smoking near doorways.

There is an unfortunate human tendency to cling to traditional ideas and ignore more recent facts that force us to reconsider them within a new context. Any commentary on smoking must be read with the understanding that it kills people, including those who are only exposed to the tobacco secondhand.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is responsible for one-fifth of all deaths in America. In the United States, 443,000 people die due to cigarette smoke each year; that figure includes 50,000 victims of secondhand smoke because “there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.” Studies by foreign, federal and state governments have shown that maintaining smoke-free zones is the only way to effectively limit the risk from exposure to secondhand smoke. Surprisingly, even smokers approve of such policies. In Ireland, for instance, 83 percent of adult smokers call the nation’s smoke-free law a good or very good thing.

Ours is a free society and people should be allowed to smoke if they want to, but frivolous actions cannot be allowed to harm others. One man’s smoking privileges are inferior to another man’s right to life. Many Americans confuse privilege with entitlement, and our UD community is not exempt from that fallacy, no matter how much we would like it to be. If smokers continue to disobey the law and do not limit their smoking to places non-smokers can more readily avoid, the university should take steps to protect those who do not want to breathe in carcinogens. Walking into Haggar Student Center or leaving the New Hall should not jeopardize one’s health.

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Daniel Orazio gives a moderate case against smoking zones.

 

I find it hard to take a passionate stance on the proposed smoking zones, given that I don’t have a clear idea of what exactly they’re supposed to be. Will smokers be forced entirely off the Mall? How large a space will a “smoking zone” be? Where will the zones be located? In the absence of such pertinent information, it’s difficult to evaluate the proposal on its own terms.

So I don’t know much about the details of the smoking zones. Still, I can safely say that I oppose them. I oppose them for the simple reason that I don’t trust this school to enforce them. In their contributions to this section, both Hannah Roberts and Seamus Young express support for the “25-feet-rule,” the Irving ordinance forbidding smoking within 25 feet of an entrance to a building. Yet, as Young notes, this law is routinely ignored. I’m told that even CSO officers are not above violating it. Accordingly, while I sympathize with the thinking behind smoking zones, I can’t believe that a school that is unable to enforce a softer rule would be able to enforce a tougher one.

Since I have the space, I’d suggest to smokers who oppose smoking zones that they’d help their case by a) adhering to the 25-feet-rule, and b) not littering. I know no truer truism than “Where there are smokers, there are cigarette butts littering the ground.” Truism though it may be, there is no physical law making it thus, and non-smokers would probably be less concerned about smoking on campus were UD smokers to upend this old saw.

In sum, I’d suggest that UD enforce the current rule before creating a new one, and I’d ask smokers to meet non-smokers halfway by being a little more respectful of the law and of the environment we all share.

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