Editorial: Smoking ban in outdoor public places is unnecessary

It appears smokers’ luck is burning out these days.

On campus, the Moffitt Cancer Center banned smoking on the hospital’s campus ­— including all off-site properties — in April and encouraged USF to become a smoke-free campus as well. In July 2003, Florida passed a ban on indoor smoking, pushing smokers outside most enclosed public buildings.

And just a few days after a statewide ban began for some indoor public places in Pennsylvania, a smoking ban was passed in 14 of the state’s universities Tuesday. Students received an e-mail just a few hours before the school day began that told them smoking would no longer be allowed on campus.

Pennsylvania’s State University System claims smoking can be banned from its campuses because the law defines a public place as “an enclosed area which serves as a workplace, commercial establishment or an area where the public is invited and permitted.” This law, the system said, includes education facilities.

But the bill defines public places — including educational facilities — as enclosed areas, which the areas outside of campus buildings clearly are not.

The Pennsylvania system’s move is harsh — and is rightfully being questioned by students.

A spokeswoman for the American Lung Association supported the state’s move, saying that if universities are preparing students for the real world — where smoking is often banned — then it naturally follows to not allow it on campus.

Banning outdoor smoking, however, shouldn’t be a university’s decision.

Most smokers are fully aware of the consequences of lighting up, yet choose to do so because they live in a country where they can freely smoke.

Universities should prepare students for the real world, and a big part of doing that is allowing them to make their own decisions — even if those decisions are potentially unhealthy — so long as they don’t hurt other people.

Consider that smoking is only a problem if people are unwillingly exposed to it.

Indoor smoking should be banned for this reason: It forces non-smokers to breathe unhealthy fumes.

Outdoors, however, is a different story.

Non-smokers can fairly easily walk around or sit away from smokers and designated smoking areas.

There is no reason Pennsylvania can’t reach a happy medium with students — one that respects their personal, constitutional right to engage in even unhealthy activities — and protects those who don’t want to smoke. And if the issue is that some classes are taught outdoors, designated smoking areas should suffice.

As for USF, the University confirmed it was not planning to ban smoking on campus at the time of the Moffitt Cancer Center’s recommendation.

USF should keep it that way.