Newlon ‘14.5: Should the University ban smoking near buildings?

Opinions Columnist
Friday, October 26, 2012

When I walk outside the Rockefeller Library or my dorm room, I feel vaguely like I’ve stepped into a 1960s bar on an episode of “Mad Men.”

It’s not because of Brown students’ impeccable vintage fashion or our brooding, womanizing ways. It’s the layer of smoke that clouds the entrances of doorways as students smoke their hourly cigarettes and feed their growing addictions.

In July, USA Today published a conservative estimate that 774 college campuses in the United States have banned smoking. This is an increase from 131 campuses in 2008. And I strongly believe Brown should follow suit and also ban smoking on its campus altogether.

Smoking indoors on college campuses has been largely banned since the 1970s. While this ban helped eliminate the levels of dangerous secondhand smoke students inhaled, smokers have migrated to the entrances of buildings to light up. In an era where even New York City has banned outdoor smoking in public places, it seems incongruous that Brown has not done the same.

I recognize that Brown has a significant population of smokers who feel that such a ban would infringe on their rights. But it’s important to recognize that on-campus smoking violates the rights of non-smokers – their rights to clean air and general good health.

Estimates predict that secondhand smoke causes around 50,000 deaths per year, and side effects include lung cancer, respiratory infections, asthma and an increased risk of heart disease. “Even breathing in low doses of cigarette smoke can increase one’s risk of heart attack,” David Meyers, professor of cardiology and preventive medicine at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, told Science Daily. “Public smoking bans seem to be tremendously effective in reducing heart attack and, theoretically, might also help to prevent lung cancer and emphysema, diseases that develop much more slowly than heart attacks.” 

When fellow students smoke outside our dorm rooms and common spaces, they subject us to carcinogens and future health problems – not to mention unpleasant and disgusting air. We’re on a campus that doesn’t allow us to carry open containers of alcohol. But the cigarette, a more dangerous vice, is completely permissible. It doesn’t add up.

A ban on smoking would not only protect non-smokers, it would prevent future smokers from becoming addicted by reducing the convenience and accessibility of tobacco. While some college smokers dub themselves solely “social smokers,” studies show that at least 10 percent of them smoke at least every other day. Brown shouldn’t dictate student’s actions – nor should it facilitate destructive behaviors.

I don’t judge or condemn smokers. But it’s not 1960. It’s 2012, and it’s time to take the smoking off campus.

  • smokefree

    Cara is right on the money and hopefully Kevin Carty will learn a thing or two from you regarding smoking on campus.

    I just wanted to point out that 100% smokefree/tobacco-free campuses are increasing at a phenomenal pace across this country, and the number as of October 5, 2012, has grown to 825 colleges and universities that are 100% smokefree in the USA, among them 608 are tobacco-free.