Smoking bans improve health of campus and environment

A lot of people have complained this year about AU's new ban on the sale of cigarettes in The Eagle's Nest, as well as the ban on smoking enforced inside and outside residence halls. While I can understand that smokers are irked over their increasingly tight puffing borders, I think the new bans are a good idea and will improve the overall health of the campus-which is what the administration and most students presumably want.

For anyone who has walked through the hazy stench of smoke outside the Mary Graydon Center and the residence halls, AU's new ban offers a welcome reprieve from this former nose-wrinkling necessity. It is unfortunate that the ban is not in effect outside the main entrance to MGC or any other academic buildings around campus. Of course smokers need a place to go when they have a break, but if they restricted themselves to the sides of buildings or some place that hundreds of people don't have to walk through, non-smokers and people generally annoyed with the smell would be a lot happier.

Second-hand smoke is more than just an annoying by-product of clubs and bars-it is harmful to the health of every person who comes into contact with it, although tangible evidence of the body's contamination may not always be immediately clear. In addition to being harmful to the body, cigarette smoke also hurts the environment by releasing toxins and chemicals into the air. The impact may not be as large as air pollution from automobiles, but that should not deter people concerned about the environment from ignoring its effects.

Some people may argue that these new bans are an infringement on their personal liberties, but the dorms already have rules that students must follow, and the store has the right to sell what it chooses. I don't see much of a difference between banning the sale and consumption of alcohol in the dorms and on campus (except for that curious haven in the Tavern) and banning the sale of cigarettes on campus. Both can be potentially addictive, although it may take less time to become addicted to cigarettes. Will it stop people from smoking? Of course not. Will the bans aid in reducing the negative effects of cigarette smoke on non-smokers? Almost certainly, especially if AU continues its long-term plan to make AU a smoke-free campus.

Of course, those of us non-smokers who don't live in the dorms do not have much of a direct benefit yet. Hopefully that will change, and hopefully some smokers who have expressed a desire to quit (as many I know have at times) will use the bans as a jump-start to a healthier life. They have the right to smoke-nobody is contesting that-but the bans are a major step in ensuring that no one else has to suffer because of their addiction. Health-happy California has banned smoking in bars and restaurants, and this has started to become a national trend. Even nearby Montgomery County has been experimenting with smoking bans. Some smokers may interpret this trend to be some disastrous reincarnation of Prohibition, but if smokers choose to react less indignantly and put some more thought into their harmful habit, perhaps they will see that these bans are not some malevolent conspiracy against them but are rather meant to enhance the safety and comfort of those not associated with the smoking world.

These bans may be hard for some to accept, but there are thousands of students on this campus who do not smoke and who do not want to walk through clouds of smoke every time they enter and exit a building. If you need to smoke, it's not that much of an effort to walk to a nearby bench or even stand instead of sit on the steps in front of the dorms.

Encountering second-hand smoke is somewhat comparable to an inebriated student stepping too close to you and breathing in your face. No one wants to encounter that, and these bans are an important step to increasing the health of the environment and AU's campus community. I can only hope that more restrictive bans will be employed in the near future.

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