Cigarettes — chances are you either smoke them or despise them. Whatever your stance on “cancer sticks” may be, it’s safe to say it’s becoming increasingly difficult for people to light up in public.
It began in 1995 when California became the first state to execute a smoking ban in most indoor work sites in an effort to prevent employees from being subjected to secondhand smoke.
Roughly two decades later, similar legislation is being introduced by the University of California system and it’s guaranteed to garner both tremendous support and backlash.
The proposed ordinance calls for a total ban on smoking and all tobacco-related products for students and faculty alike on all 10 UC campuses, which will be implemented within the next two years, according to UC President Mark Yudof. Administrators from each of the 10 universities will make their own decisions regarding certain policy specifications, but the general goal is for each UC campus to be a smoke-free environment by 2014.
Although this decision may seem rather drastic to some, at least one student is breathing a sigh of relief.
“I’m a nonsmoker and I hate having to walk around campus and hold my breath as I go by (someone who’s smoking),” Haylee Clay, a communications junior at San Diego State, said. “If someone wants to kill their lungs, that’s their problem, not mine. But I don’t want it anywhere near me. I’m all for the ban.”
It should come as no surprise that a significant number of people share Clay’s frustration with cigarettes. In fact, 59 percent of Americans supported a smoking ban in all public places in a Gallup Poll last year, increased from 39 percent in 2001. Still, those opposed to the ban are spewing fiery criticism concerning students and faculty being robbed of their right to smoke: It’s their choice, after all, and a legal choice at that. However, nonsmokers have rights, too, do they not?
We are all well aware cigarettes contain carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents. But did you know tobacco-related use accounts for more deaths than those from HIV, illegal drug use, car accidents, suicides and murders combined? Every year in the United States, 443,000 people die from smoking, which is still the number one cause of preventable, premature deaths in our country. Let those words simmer in your mind for a moment: preventable and premature.
More than likely, you’ve heard this information before. But how much do you actually know about secondhand smoke? After all, if you’re a smoker yourself, shouldn’t you be actively aware of how the cigarette resting between your fingers is affecting the health of those around you? Well, I’ll tell you exactly how. Nearly 46,000 Americans die each year because of heart disease from secondhand smoke, according to the American Cancer Society. “Even brief exposure can be dangerous because nonsmokers inhale many of the same poisons in cigarette smoke as smokers,” the Center for Disease Control stated.
I’ll be honest and tell you I’ve smoked a significant number of cigarettes in my life, much to the disgust and dismay of my older sister who never once let a cigarette touch her lips. The most shameful part, though? If you were to ask me whether or not I’ve smoked around someone with asthma or around a child, I wouldn’t even know what to say because, truthfully, I hardly paid attention to those around me before lighting up. That’s what happens when a terrible habit becomes a customary and acceptable part of our culture — we forget how terrible it actually is. We forget that habits such as smoking can irreversibly affect those around us, whether they are our friends, family members, children or complete strangers. How do we justify that? We can’t.
It might infuriate you Yudof has decided you can no longer enjoy your mentholated Kools during breaks between classes. It might make your fingers tremble and your blood boil. However, if eliminating secondhand smoke on campus and perhaps even discouraging incoming freshmen from picking up the habit are possible outcomes of this decision, then opposing the ban for the sake of your mid-break cigarette is even more disgusting than the habit itself.
— Stacey Oparnica is a journalism junior.