More and more colleges and universities throughout the United States are recoginizing the negative health consequences of tobacco use by students and employees alike, and are moving to reduce or eliminate tobacco use on their campuses. As of July 1, 2012 approximately 774 U.S. campuses are smoke-free and of those, 562 have a 100% tobacco-free policy in place. But a recent editoral “Smoke and Ashes” in the Pipe Dream, a student-run newspaper at Binghamton University, denounced the chancellor’s move at making SUNY campuses tobacco-free while applauding her for trying to make the campus healthier. Why would you argue against a schoolwide policy that is out to protect everyone, tobacco users and non-tobacco users alike? You say you want to be treated like an adult, so let’s look at some facts so you are “prepared for the real world” through your college education.
“Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States,” according to the CDC. Every year in the U.S. over 443,000 people die from smoking or exposure secondhand smoke. Considering SUNY had 467,991 students enrolled throughout its campuses in 2011, this means over 94% of the students would have been eliminated. If you add in the number of employees (88,024), this number drops to over 79%. Of course, these percentages would be further lowered with the addition of adults attending the schools, but you get the point that the unnecessary use of a legal product would almost wipe out the student population in just over a year.
You say “teach us about the harms of smoking…and let us make the decision.” And if you make the decision to use tobacco, even after learning about the harm it does to you body, then respect that decision. While it seems like the focus these days is on getting adults to quit smoking, tobacco use is really a “pediatric epidemic” around the world, according to the Surgeon General’s 2012 report. That means that the majority of adult smokers, roughly 90%, actually started before they turned 18, the legal age to purchase tobacco products in the U.S. The adult smoker today acquired a deadly addiction to nicotine long before they knew it could reduce lung growth during their growing years, as well as contribute to coronary artery disease years earlier than previously thought. And that myth that smoking will control your weight? That was advertising designed by the tobacco companies as far back as 1929 to sell cigarettes.
“People who live on campus have the right to smoke where they live.” What about the non-smokers who live on campus? Did you know that secondhand smoke has over 7,000 chemicals in it, including about 70 that can cause cancer, and that “breathing secondhand smoke has immediate harmful effects on the cardiovascular system”? It can also cause respiratory illnesses such as brochitis and pneumonia and increases asthma attacks. If you smoke near a building, the smoke can travel through ventilation system or open windows and doorways. A person with chronic health issues does not have to be in the direct path of the smoke to be affected.
Finally, did you know that “cigarettes are the most littered item in America?” If there are smokers on campus, then there is cigarette litter. We are taught not to litter in grade school, but somehow the message is lost when some people become smokers. All that litter needs to be picked up and it does cost SUNY both time and money to keep the campuses clean.
If you are lucky enough to attend college, whether at SUNY or elsewhere, then you are planning for a future. SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher is protecting the right of everyone to enjoy clean air and a clean campus. She is protecting your right to a healthy lifestyle so you will have a healthy future.
As you stated, “the people who choose to poison themselves are encouraged to respect the law.”
Click here for the Pipe Dream editorial.