When a friend of mine came to visit me on campus not too long ago, he asked a standard question: “Can I smoke here or should I go to a smoking area somewhere?” While his question was common, my answer was not: “No, you can smoke pretty much anywhere on campus.”
He was shocked by my answer, and even after I told him it was OK to smoke on campus and pointed out the many smokers around MGC and the Quad, it took him a while to actually light up and calmly puff away.
The lack of any enforcement of the current smoking ban is very unique at AU, and it too caught me by surprise when I was a freshman.
As of 2012, about 81 percent of the U.S. population lives under some type of ban on smoking in workplaces. Meanwhile, 27 states have enacted statewide bans on smoking in all enclosed public places, including bars and restaurants.
While some may think smoking bans are the result of government officials against smoking in public places, Gallup has found that 59 percent of Americans support a ban on smoking in all public places.
Similarly, tobacco-free college campuses are also on the rise. Between January 2011 and January 2012, the number of U.S. colleges and universities with total smoking bans rose from 466 to 648, according to the group Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.
Even local smoking bans are starting. The University System of Maryland and its 12 institutions will be smoke-free by next summer.
What does that mean for AU? President Neil Kerwin supports a smoking ban, but is a total ban on smoking the best route to take?
Personally, I think it’s wrong to tell someone they cannot smoke. Smoking isn’t illegal. While it’s not healthy or a right, we still cannot tell people what to do.
Nevertheless, I, like many Americans, have asthma and don’t think it’s fair that while walking to class I have to cough up a storm. Even if I did not have asthma, it’s not fair to put my lungs and health at risk.
If I respect your freedom to destroy your lungs, you should respect my freedom to protect mine.
I think the best approach AU to take is to designate specific smoking areas on campus. While there are smoker poles around campus, they are not located in places around campus which cater to both smokers and non-smokers.
If both smoking and non-smoking students could get together and discuss ideal locations for smoking areas, we could have a reasonable solution to a now relevant and inevitable discussion.
Julia Greenwald is a sophomore in the School of Communication.