Smoking: a right or an annoyance?

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Have you ever sat in Aromas and smelled cigarette smoke? Maybe you’ve had to walk through a cloud of smoke into Olin or Serra Hall, holding your breath and hoping you wouldn’t pass out?

Maybe you smoke and have received numerous glares and dirty looks from fellow students who cough loudly to bring it to your attention.

USD allows smoking on its campus, despite the recent ban by the University of California college system that would, according to the UC office of the president, “implement the university’s new smoke-free policy by 2014.”

Along with that, the University of California Irvine Smoke-Free Policy Task Force sent out a message to the Irvine community on September 12, writing, “We care about the health of our faculty, staff and students. Therefore, UC Irvine is going smoke free.”

If a statewide college system that comprises of more than 234,000 students, according to the University of California Irvine website, can go smoke-free, can this campus, a college with an undergraduate population of about 5,000 do the same?

We all know the issues associated with smoking, including the increased possibility of illness.

Does our college’s mission statement, “The University is committed to creating a welcoming, inclusive and collaborative community . . .  marked by protection of the rights and dignity of the individual,” condone or attack a student’s right to smoke?

College students have a variety of opinions on this issue, ranging from those who support the ability to smoke on campus, those who believe that smoking should be allowed in designated areas, to those who downright oppose cigarette use on campus.

Those in favor of a gradual elimination of smoking on campus, while still giving students who smoke the chance to do so, include sophomore Kirsten Paris.

“USD should start with designated smoking areas like stadiums and airports have,” Paris said. “They should be far enough away so the general population doesn’t have to deal with the smell, definitely away from housing.”

Some feel that smoking should never be allowed on campus. For many non-smoking students, health issues are a major concern, including those with asthma or who are more susceptible to the effects of smoke.

“Smoking on campus is an annoyance to non-smokers at best, and a health hazard at worst” sophomore Corinne Peters said.

As of now, smoking is allowed on campus. A 2007 summer newsletter USD Health & Safety News from the Office of Environmental Health & Safety, states the campus’ tobacco policy as prohibiting “smoking within 20 feet of openings to all buildings, including doorways, vents and operable windows” and goes on to prohibit smoking in areas for dining, in the stadiums and near certain vehicles.

In response to questions regarding how the university is re-evaluating the policy for smoking on campus, the Center for Health and Wellness Promotion stated “As the university is dedicated to providing a healthy, comfortable and productive environment for all community members, and as more and more universities become tobacco-free, USD student leaders and administrators are exploring the opportunity to become a tobacco-free campus.”

Associated Students also addresses this issue, saying that they are “currently exploring what it might look like for USD to be a tobacco free campus” and that they are “working closely with peer institutions within the UC system that have just gone through this process.”

As of now, AS “highly encourages more student voices to speak up in support of this initiative so that Associated Students can acquire a better pulse on the stance that students all across campus are taking.”

With this in mind, should this campus follow the UC system in banning smoking on campus, or should students be allowed to smoke according to the current policy?

We’ve all heard about the effects of secondhand smoke and the dangers of illnesses like lung cancer and emphysema, which affect smokers and nonsmokers alike. With this in mind, the college community, built on the belief of being a Changemaker campus, owes it to the student and faculty population to fully address the concerns that many have regarding this issue.

To be the changemakers we seek to be, we must make a change in the current situation, whether it be assigning more designated areas for smokers or an outright ban of smoking on campus.