The Crimson White

We won. Now we should ban cigarettes on campus.

Tray Smith

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SONY DSCOn Monday night, we celebrated wildly after the practice and perseverance of our football team resulted in a second consecutive BCS National Championship. While the vast majority of us can’t even imagine pulling off the job our players did, we can learn from it. Most importantly, we can look at their remarkable strength and conditioning as a challenge to better ourselves.

College is the best and worst of times for physical fitness. We have easy access to a recreation center, an aquatics center, intramural fields, and outdoor trailways. Spending time at any of them is the best way people like me can lose weight and get in shape. However, we also have easy access to bars, restaurants and, for the first time in our lives, cigarettes.

Staying away from bars and restaurants can help with weight loss, but avoiding cigarettes is the best thing we can do for our health.

Most students don’t enter college as dependent smokers; it is hard to form a smoking habit at home with parents. Once students arrive, though, most of them can buy cigarettes, and thanks to the University’s lax smoking policy, they can light them almost anywhere on this campus.

If they do, many other student smokers will join them in a cycle that perpetuates itself by making smoking seem acceptable to thousands of new students each year.

Most student smokers are adamant they will quit after college, and most of them are probably right. Since 2002, the number of former smokers in the U.S. has exceeded that of current smokers.

Still, many of them are surely wrong. Smokers make up a higher percentage of young people than other age groups; even if many quit, a new generation of life-long smokers is formed on college campuses across the country, including this one. That is why 1,130 campuses around the country have become smoke-free both indoors and outdoors, according to Americans for Non-Smokers Rights.

Non-smokers have pushed these bans nationwide, but they are not the primary beneficiaries. The Centers for Disease Control estimate second-hand smoke causes 49,000 deaths annually, but that is a small part of the 443,000 total deaths caused by smoking each year. That accounts for about a fifth of total annual deaths in the United States, making smoking the leading cause of preventable death.

The people who benefit most from college smoking bans, then, aren’t non-smokers but rather, the would-be smokers who never pick up the habit because they can’t. Freshmen living in residence halls on a smoke-free campus would have to be willing to leave campus multiple times a day if they wanted to sustain a cigarette addiction.

Approximately 69 percent of smokers want to quit completely, so surely they can understand a policy that is designed to prevent more young people from finding themselves in that same situation.

In the short term, the University should still be willing to accommodate smokeless and even electronic alternatives to cigarettes, which are generally safer and could help students move away from smoking. But it is long past time for the University to prohibit all cigarette smoking on campus – everywhere, every day – and fine people who do it. It would be much easier to enforce that policy than the current policy that requires students to be 30 feet away from a building entrance, which goes largely ignored.

For the past two years, we have emerged as the national champions in football. But 1130 colleges have beaten us in the race to prohibit smoking. It’s time for us to catch up.

Tray Smith is a senior majoring in political science and journalism. His column runs weekly on Thursdays.

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We won. Now we should ban cigarettes on campus.