Cigarettes: a lethal hobby born from the bastardized version of the plant Europeans pilfered from the American Indians. An endemic across college campuses everywhere, lighting up at least once is thought of as crucial to the “college experience” stereotype. Even nonsmokers may have a cigarette or two if there’s alcohol involved.
I’m not pointing fingers, for I have recently become friends with the Marlboro Man myself. It’s ugly and can be gross; I can admit that. There are as many excuses for smoking as there are smokers on this campus, so I’m not going to offer you some sob story ending with a conceivable quitting date. As adults, smokers are fully aware of what they’re doing to their bodies. Many can feel it every morning when they wake up with a smokers’ cough.
But there are more responsible people out there: those who have made the decision not to slowly kill themselves. Smokers have to respect their choice. I remember how annoyed I was as a nonsmoker when I felt my oxygen being stifled by some smoker invading my space. “Do unto others,” my mother always taught me, and smoking is no different. If the nonsmokers’ right to be left alone isn’t respected and smokers instead upset that right, Florida could become a “Clean Air” state like California. Then there will be no choice but to abstain from smoking anywhere public – including secluded outdoor areas.
Smokers don’t know the medical history of every person they smoke around and have to be respectful of the possible detriment secondhand smoke could do to a bystander. How guilty would you feel if your cigarette caused someone to have a significant asthma attack? I know that would certainly haunt me. College smokers are old enough to buy the pack, therefore they are mature enough to regard nonsmokers they encounter.
Here are a few things I do to preserve the oxygen around nonsmokers that you might consider doing if you don’t already:
I never smoke while sitting in the Bull Runner stops. Those little shelters can trap the smell and the harmful carcinogens in a small space. I know that it’s not my bench, so I keep it convenient for all students.
There are some areas on campus that the smokers have identified among each other as “smoker-friendly.” The first that comes to mind is the area in front of Cooper Hall. Yes, the one surrounded by the big cloud. It seems to be a safe haven for smokers, where students, TAs and professors all find smoking sanctity among friends. Nonsmokers, you essentially have the rest of the campus under your domain; please allow us this one area.
If I wish to smoke in a short time frame and cannot escape to somewhere secluded, I ask every person in a four-foot radius from me if my smoking bothers them. Most people say “no,” but I’ve received some responses indicating I should take my cigarette elsewhere. And every single person I’ve ever asked has thanked me for my consideration.
I consider it rude to light up in your car when you have a nonsmoker riding with you. Under very rare circumstances will I smoke in my car with a nonsmoker present. For instance, my roommate has given me permission to smoke in her presence countless times, so I’ll smoke in the car, but with all windows down and the sun roof cracked. But if you’re offering a ride to a classmate or coworker who you don’t know personally, respect their right to be left alone.
Likewise, when accepting a ride from an acquaintance, don’t ask to smoke in his or her car if you’re unsure of his or her smoking status. Most people don’t like the way smoke lingers in their interiors, but will permit you simply out of courtesy. Don’t put friends in that position.
The crux of this column: Respect everyone’s right to be left alone. Hence, keep the smoking confined to your own home or open outdoor areas. If you’re smoking at a table in front of the main door to a restaurant, you cannot know whether some people entering or exiting that door struggle with asthma. Someone I love dearly has severe asthma attacks if she simply smells cigarette smoke. If I have to go a whole day without one single smoke, I will to preserve her comfortable breathing.
It’s a smoker’s right to inhale. Smokers don’t want anyone else telling them that they can’t smoke outside anymore – that would be an invasion of privacy. Likewise, smoking in confined “outdoor” places such as bus stops and entrances to buildings invades the privacy of the non-smoker and their entitlement to be left alone.
Taylor Williams is a junior majoring in English education.