Thursday, April 12, 2012

Disconnect the Smoke Alarm

Photo by Grant Cochrane
By Roger West

There seems to be a growing anger among some folks at Trident Tech about the
nicotine-infused smoke clouds that linger over parts of the campuses. Many feel that
because it is a health hazard, smoking should be banned on the College’s campuses. While I am not one who believes government should have no role in our lives in any way, I believe that banning smoking outside of the buildings is truly a bad policy decision.

No, I am not a smoker, but I was about 30 years ago. And, no, I do not enjoy having to breathe the second-hand smoke that contaminates the air that I breathe, which is why I do support a smoking ban in enclosed spaces, like the ones implemented for public spaces like restaurants and bars by many cities and states in our country. Still, any individual who chooses to smoke, whether it is a wise decision or not, should be free to light up in any outdoor space that will not expose others to the exhaust from their exhalations. Smoking cigarettes is a legally sanctioned act—until tobacco companies lose their political clout.

While I do support smokers’ rights, I also expect smokers to be responsible and considerate. This means that those who do choose to smoke should do so in the areas on the College’s campuses that have been designated for their use. That means they should stay out of the breezeway between 100 and 300 buildings or any other covered area that does not provide adequate air flow to dissipate the smoke. Years ago, the College built gazebos to provide some shelter for smokers, so they should be used for the purpose for which they were constructed. Another responsibility for smokers would be the proper disposal of those cigarette butts when they have finished. The campus grounds should not serve as anyone’s ashtray. So, with the right to smoke comes the responsibility to follow the rules and consider the rights of others.
Also consider the alternatives if smoking is banned in all areas of the campus.

Many people will resort to using smokeless tobacco, and that will require a whole lot of spitting. Will the College then have to replace the ashtrays on campus with spittoons, or will we have to step around or in the accumulated spittle from those who have reverted to this habit to ease their cravings? It is also an unnecessary health risk during flu and cold season. And then there is the student who sits in the back of the room and spends the entire class spitting into a half-full bottle of tobacco-laced saliva. Believe me, I have experienced it, and it is not a pretty sight.

The best way to deal with the issue is for everyone to try to be considerate of the other person. If you don’t smoke, you shouldn’t have to breathe the smoke from someone else’s cigarette, but try to understand the nature of addiction. If you do choose to smoke, please consider the rights of those who do not and accept the responsibilities that come with your decision. So if you do smoke on campus, please respect the rights and property of others.


  1. As of now all tobacco products are prohibited inside buildings, so if someone is using smokeless tobacco in class that is prohibited,also. The smokers do not smoke in the designated areas which have ashtrays and that is where the problems lie. Unless they begin policing themselves then non-smokers will have no sympathy about banning it campus-wide.

  2. Thank you for a balanced perspective on an inflammatory issue (pun intended). We are regulated to death. At what point will we, as individuals, be willing to monitor and be accountable for our own behavior? The last thing we need is another regulation to enforce and the expense of personnel to enforce it. Tuition is high enough. We do have campus crime -- real crime, such as theft. We're adults. Let's act that way. (And if we are going to expand policy-driven enforcement of offensive personal behavior, let's don't limit it to smoking and tobacco. Let's talk about obesity (think overcrowded and worn-out facilities), personal hygiene (think public health), and fraud (think students who are here only for the government check, with no intention of completing a degree).

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  4. I'm faculty, and pregnant. Second hand smoke increases the chances of a still born by 23%. Every day I have to walk though clouds of second hand smoke to get to my classrooms. There is already a state law prohibiting smokers from lighting up within 25 feet of the entrance of a state building. All of our buildings on campus are state buildings. It is simply not enforced. Especially with ashtrays and benches perched at the doorways of the buildings. Every day that I teach, I have to hold my breath to walk into a building. Otherwise smokers could be potentially killing my baby by breathing that contaminated air. I hate having to redirect, or hold my breath just to safely enter a building. I hate that smokers think "outside" means the carcinogens immediately evaporate into the air. I hate that I am subjected to cancer at my workplace with no regard. I don't care if a smoker wants to inhale and exhale cancer. But, I do care that I don't get a choice in the matter.