Author: Lena Smith
It is the smell: acidic and biting. It is knowing that the Los Angeles air does not need to be any worse. It is the small number of Occidental students and staff members who blow smoke at the rest of the campus.
It is in everyone’s best interests that Occidental bans tobacco smoking on campus.
The Student Wellness Advisory Committee (SWAC), Public Health Club and Emmons Wellness Center (Emmons) recently sent out a petition to eliminate smoking from Occidental’s campus. This issue affects every member of the Occidental community, but asks a sacrifice of only a small percentage. Smokers on campus may have a right to their decision, but the campus community has the power to decide whether it wants to smell tobacco smoke day-to-day.
Every time a member of the campus community walks past someone smoking, they are exposed to secondhand smoke. Repeated exposure to secondhand smoke has all the same effects as smoking: cancer, cardiovascular disease and reproductive issues in women, among others, according the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Eliminating exposure to smoke is easy. A study cited by the CDC says that local bans on smoking reduce hospital admittance for tobacco-related illnesses. Health is something that all members of the Occidental community should be able to protect — and the health of each person on our campus is affected by tobacco smoke.
The sole argument that smoking is unhealthy does not mean that Occidental should stop anyone from choosing to smoke on the campus. After all, all sorts of unhealthy things can be consumed: caramel macchiatos, french fries and large amounts of alcohol, to name a few.
Smoking, however, is a different kind of evil. Its evil comes from its power to infect others, beyond those who choose to use it. It affects their friends, their neighbors and strangers. Nine percent of adults with a bachelor’s degree smoke — if this statistic holds for Occidental’s population, there are 1,947 students out of the 2,117 attending the school who do not smoke. That is 1,947 students who would rather not inhale tobacco.
Inhaling tobacco smoke unexpectedly is like a slap in the face, only it comes with severe health consequences. The air quality in LA already affects the health of anyone who lives in the area. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends reducing athletic activity at peak smog times, such as during rush hour. Moreover, the EPA also recommends that athletes avoiding areas that allow smoking when they exercise. Occidental could improve conditions for everyone on campus by eliminating the pollutant that is under our control: tobacco smoke.
Occidental is a small campus with one central outdoor common area — the academic quad. Most of the people who walk across the campus on any one day walk through the quad, and too frequently they smell tobacco smoke. Anyone who sits downwind has no choice but to smell it, and just 20 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke can impair breathing. California law may prohibit smoking with 20 feet of entryways to public buildings, but that still leaves smokers in Occidental’s main walkway.
Occidental’s small campus also means that stepping off campus to smoke is practical. It takes no more than five minutes to walk off campus from any given point. That is more than enough time for a smoke break during lunch or after class.
Despite this, the petition does not ask anyone to give up smoking. For anyone who would like to quit in light of the tobacco ban, Occidental offers services to help. Emmons provides counseling and referrals to further resources for anyone affiliated with Occidental who would like help quitting, according to a campus-wide email sent Sept. 25.
As of July 1, 1,077 campuses in the United States are tobacco-free, according to the Tobacco Free College Campus Initiative. That is a lot of students who can walk all the way from on end of their school to the other without being affected by tobacco smoke. The smoke-free majority of our campus community deserves such a guarantee, which encompasses their right to choose not to smoke, to protect their health and to breathe air as clean it comes.
Lena Smith is a senior Group Language major. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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