Smoking or non-smoking? For college and universities without a policy in place on their campus, it’s a debate that has passionate believers and supporters on both sides of the issue. Supporters of a non-smoking campus work for rights of all, smokers and non-smokers alike, when they want their campus cleared of smoke and litter. Smokers, who believe their rights are being taken away, will fight to keep the status quo.
Take the students at Orange Coast College, a community college in Costa Mesa, California, for instance. The Board of Trustees is currently looking into the issue of tobacco on campus, and those wanting to ban smoking have already gathered more than 1,200 signatures in favor. The petition came about not because the students hate smokers, but because the smokers themselves “disrespected” the non-smoking areas, the no-smoking signs, and tossed cigarette butts throughout the campus. If the College homepage is accurate, the students have many signatures ahead of them as they need 50% of the more than 25,000 students who enroll each semester to sign on for the petition to be presented to the Board.
Not to be outdone, those advocating for smokers’ rights recently started their own petition. But it is difficult for some smokers to even offer support to their fellow smokers because of their lack of common courtesy. One suggested they need to know “the boundaries of their privilege” and to recognize that their smoking is not a so-called right.
According to Merriam-Webster, a privilege is a …”benefit that is given to some people and not to others.” A good example of this is Orange Coast College is currently allowing the privilege of smoking in designated areas on campus, which is being abused. That right goes both ways as the College also has the right of taking that privilege away.
Rights are “legal, social or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement.” Here in the U.S. if you are over 18, you are allowed by law to have the freedom, or right, to purchase tobacco. But with that legal right and freedom, you also have moral, ethical and social responsibilities to think about that go hand-in-hand with this freedom to purchase tobacco. Unfortunately, no one hands you a list of those responsibilities when you buy that first pack or smoke that first cigarette.
The first and biggest part of that responsibility is the social responsibility. While you have a right to buy tobacco, you don’t have a right to use it anywhere you want. Non-smokers also have rights, such as the right to breathe smoke-free air. Smokers are a minority here in the U.S. since only about 19% of all adults smoke. And while many non-smokers are tolerant of smokers, the fact is laws are generally written for the benefit of everyone, not just a select group. You still have the right to destroy your health with your smoking habit as you see fit, but you don’t have the right to destroy the health of those who have to be around you on campus, hence the designated smoking areas already on campus.
One of the complaints about smoking on campus was the amount of cigarette litter in non-smoking areas. Your legal right and freedom to smoke also comes with a moral responsibility to do what is right, such as containing your smoking to designated areas and properly disposing of the litter.
With all the rights you have regarding smoking, you also have a right to know that tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the U.S. Although there are small warnings on the side of the pack, the tobacco industry doesn’t like to advertise disability and death each and every time you purchase their product. It’s not good for business.
If you decide to keep smoking, do what is right and respect others rights.
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